Bartolo Colon had given up four runs and eight hits in four innings of a 6-3 loss to the Yankees in his first start with the Twins last month when he mentioned to an ESPN reporter that he might be nearing a breaking point.
This caused Marly Rivera to report that Colon’s next start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, “could be a determining factor in making a decision” on whether he might walk away.
The news was surprising considering Colon had just joined the Twins, but it wasn’t shocking given how 2017 had gone for the 44-year-old righthander known as the Big Sexy.
Colon had signed a one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Braves last winter, coming off a season in which he went 15-8 with a 3.43 ERA with the Mets. That earned him a spot on the NL All-Star team. But Colon looked as if he had gone off the pitching cliff once he arrived in Atlanta. He was 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA before being jettisoned after a poor start in late June.
The Mets wanted him back, but Colon looked at the pitching-starved Twins and saw an opportunity.
After a minor league start with the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in Rochester, he looked good early against the Yankees before they began to get to him. He then gave up eight hits and three runs in five innings, getting a no-decision, in a 6-4 loss at Los Angeles.
There were conflicting reports as to whether Colon really might have hung it up if that start didn’t go well, but there is no doubt Colon and Twins are happy he stuck it out. After another no-decision, this time he gave up three runs and eight hits in 6.1 innings of a loss at Oakland, Colon has put together outstanding back-to-back performances.
The second of those came Wednesday night against the Brewers at Miller Park. Colon, coming off a complete-game victory over Texas, continued to prove you don’t have to throw hard to win games. The man known as Big Sexy used his pinpoint control to shut out Milwaukee for seven innings, surrendering five hits and a walk while striking out five.
That helped the Twins to a 4-0 win over the Brewers, giving Minnesota a four-game winning streak and pulling them back to .500 (56-56). The Twins remain 1.5 games back in the AL wild card race.
“It was fun to watch,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Colon’s start on Wednesday. “He kept making pitches. He was in command. You could tell by the swings. He’s had a really good feel lately of how to make pitches.”
After Colon’s first two starts with the Twins, it appeared he had a chance to get through a lineup once or twice but that would be it.
“He’s such a leader on this ballclub,” Twins pitching coach Neil Allen told the team’s radio network. “He’s very aggressive with his stuff and he’s committed to his stuff.”
Allen acknowledged that Colon had “wanted to go back out” to pitch the eighth inning on Wednesday but added, “you have to take age into consideration.”
That isn’t a concern with too many professional athletes, but in Colon’s case it definitely factors into the equation.
While he didn’t join the team until after the All-Star Break, Colon in many ways symbolizes the Twins’ season. Common sense says Colon, and the Twins, should be non-factors at this point. Yet, both refuse to go away.
The Twins went 5-10 coming out of the break, including a four-game skid, causing Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey to send Jaime Garcia to the Yankees (after only one start) and All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington.
Colon, of course, stuck around because portly pitchers who once played for the Montreal Expos aren’t exactly in demand. When the Colon signing occurred, it was applauded here because there was a curiosity about how an addition, that seemed to border on a stunt, would work.
The only thing that has looked like a stunt so far have been Colon’s at-bats during Interleague games in NL parks. Colon went 0-for-3 on Wednesday, but his teammates appeared to have great fun watching his rather interesting approach at the plate. Colon is 0-for-19 this season and doesn’t have a hit in his last 32 trips to the plate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to watch him try to make contact.
“I was afraid he was going to blow a hamstring out on that one swing,” Molitor said. “He’s got a plan (up there). I’m not sure I understand it, but he’s got a plan.”
Evidently that plan has nothing to do with retirement.