CHICAGO -- When you post 14 scoreless innings in your first two big league starts, you're bound to come down to earth at some point.

So it was with left-hander Scott Lewis in his last two outings of '08, against the Tigers and White Sox. It would be hard to argue that Lewis pitched poorly -- in fact, he took home wins in each of those starts to improve to 4-0 -- but he didn't display the dominance that characterized his debut against the Orioles and his second start against the Twins.

"The action on my pitches wasn't what it was," Lewis said. "My changeup wasn't what it usually is, and my fastball command wasn't what I wanted, either. There's going to be days where I don't have my best stuff."

On his 25th birthday Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field, Lewis tried to get by without his best stuff and gave up six runs, four of which were earned, on six hits over five innings. He was burned by three homers.

But when Lewis looks back on '08, that start won't be his lasting memory. He has plenty of positives to draw from -- namely, taking advantage of a big league opportunity he didn't think he'd get. Lewis was only called up from the Eastern League playoffs because Anthony Reyes strained his right elbow Sept. 5.

No one imagined Lewis would get more than a start or two, and no one imagined he'd make quite as big an impression as he did. His eight shutout innings in Baltimore on Sept. 10 were an attention-grabber. And when he followed that up six shutout innings against the Twins on Sept. 15, he further proved he can have success at this level.

"I was happy to get my feet wet," said Lewis, who went 8-4 with a 2.40 ERA in 17 starts between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Buffalo. "Next year, I'll be more comfortable."

Until then, Lewis will head to the Dominican Republic in mid-October to build up his innings total in the Dominican Winter League, where he'll be on the Aguilas team. He missed the first two months of this season with a shoulder strain.

"Pitching against that competition [in winter ball] is going to be good for me," he said. "There are good crowds, and the fans are into it. It's going to be a good experience."