However, the injury - suffered when Lewis slid into second base - cut short his stint with the Triple-A team and forced him to miss the Pacific Coast League playoffs.
After batting .188 through his first 40 games at Iowa this season, the former first round pick by the Atlanta Braves was demoted—first to Class-A Daytona, then back up to West Tenn. He returned to Iowa on July 4 after over a month away from the Triple-A club. Since then, Lewis has shown some signs of improvement, but continues to struggle with a .246 average over his last 27 games.
Near the end of last season when Lewis suffered the leg injury, it was widely reported – both by the Cubs and by this publication – that the official word on Lewis' injury was a broken leg.
Not so fast, he says.
"A broken leg would have been better, because it would have healed by now," Lewis said. "It's been a struggle, and I had to work so hard before the year started just to be ready to play this season. I suffered plenty of ligament and soft tissue damage as a result of the injury. I'd almost prefer a broken leg over what I actually accumulated.
"People still refer to it as a broken leg, but that wasn't it at all."
Nonetheless, the injury Lewis sustained has proved to be the first major setback of his career. The Marietta, Ga., native and Georgia Tech alumnus has played in over 100 games in each full season of minor league ball since being drafted with the 40th overall pick in 2001. He is sure to do so again this year.
Throughout the entire offseason leading into 2005, Lewis spent all of his time rehabbing the leg in hopes of being ready to go by opening night on the minor league circuit this April.
Hindsight is 20/20, but Lewis believes that may not have been the best decision.
"Maybe I came back a little too soon," he said. "Perhaps I didn't give this injury enough credit. Normally when you're hurt, you have minor aches, pains and pulls. You can always push those aside and it's no big deal. I really didn't know how to gauge this one, though. From the very beginning, I was trying to prove to everyone how much work I could handle. I probably should have taken my time instead."
It's a sentiment that Iowa broadcaster Deene Ehlis echoes.
"Richard has said that he rehabbed so hard that he didn't have time in the offseason to work on his swing and do the typical things players do between seasons," said Ehlis, a 16-year veteran in the Iowa broadcast booth. "I think he was six weeks ahead of schedule when he started the season with us. He was going to play winter ball, but couldn't do that. A year or so down the road, he should be 100 percent."
For now, Lewis hopes to finish this season strong and put in a normal workload once the offseason rolls around.
"I want to leave this year with a good taste in my mouth," he said. "My top priority is making sure I'm healthy next year. I don't want to come in and have to do treatment every day like I have this year. There are good days and bad days. Before the injury, I barely knew where the training room was. Hopefully, I'll be able to use this offseason for some rest and stability this time."