All Scott Lewis wanted was to get through the 2006 season healthy. Mission accomplished, and then some.
Lewis, who helped Kinston capture its second Carolina League title in three years, was named the Advanced Class A Pitcher of the Year after battling his way back from Tommy John elbow surgery and biceps tendinitis.
Selected in the third round of the 2004 draft by the Cleveland Indians, the 23-year-old left-hander went 3-3 with a 1.48 ERA in 27 appearances, including 26 starts.
Lewis, who also led all Minor League starters in ERA to earn the inaugural Most Spectacular Pitcher Award, scattered 84 hits and 28 walks with 123 strikeouts over 115 2/3 innings, despite being limited to 65 pitches per outing.
Lewis had the Tommy John procedure while he was still at Ohio State, but that didn't stop the Indians from selecting him in '04.
He paired with fellow southpaw Chuck Lofgren to form perhaps the top 1-2 punch in the Minors as Kinston cruised to the best record in Advanced A at 85-54.
Lofgren led the Minors with 17 wins, posting a 2.32 ERA as the No. 1 starter in the rotation. However, voters gave the award to Lewis, who never missed a start.
"The season was definitely much more than I had expected," said Lewis. "I had just been hoping to stay healthy all season for a change. For three years now, I've been going through shutdown time and rehab.
"So to come in and throw like I did this season and win that award, and for our team to win the championship, you can't ask for much more than that."
Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh knew Lewis would be on a strict pitch count and did not let him go more than 5 2/3 innings in any of his outings until the postseason.
"For him to do what he did, he was outstanding," Sarbaugh said. "He has the ability to command his pitches and throw strikes, he has great demeanor and never gets rattled."
Lewis also did the little things, fielding his position well and getting hitters out despite a fastball that barely touched 90 mph.
Lewis reached his personal goal of throwing a full six innings in the Indians' 5-0 shutout of Salem in the South Division clincher. He yielded just three hits in his final appearance of the year, and didn't mind spending the entire campaign with the Indians.
"In Spring Training, at first, they told me I might move up quickly if I was healthy, but then once I'd been at Kinston for a month they decided to keep me there because I was going to be on that pitch count all year," he said. "I was fine with that. Kinston was a good place to focus on baseball."
Double-A Akron is Lewis' likely starting point for 2007 and he welcomes the promotion.
"I know my pitch count will go up and I hope I can still throw as well as I did this year," he said.
For now, however, Lewis is home in Ohio, enjoying a brief vacation before he starts back up again in January.