SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon is approaching a significant milestone. He needs three wins to tie Hall of Famer Juan Marichal with 243 for the most in Major League history by a pitcher from the Dominican Republic.But that doesn't begin to explain why Colon, at the age of
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon is approaching a significant milestone. He needs three wins to tie Hall of Famer Juan Marichal with 243 for the most in Major League history by a pitcher from the Dominican Republic.
But that doesn't begin to explain why Colon, at the age of 44, is in Rangers camp on a Minor League contract trying to win a job.
"I always want my family to remember that I've played a long time," Colon said. "It's something that I talk about with my family. When I talked to my mother before she passed away, I told her I would play as long as I can, and that's what I'm going to do."
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This would be Colon's 21st Major League season, and he would be the oldest player in the Major Leagues for the third straight year. But first he has to make the team.
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It'll be no small task, as the Rangers have five starters in Cole Hamels, Martin Perez, Doug Fister, Matt Moore and Mike Minor, they are giving Matt Bush a chance to start and they have veteran Jonathon Niese in camp on a Minor League contract. There are also plenty of free-agent starting pitchers out there still looking for a job.
"It doesn't bother me at all," Colon said. "I know I have to work hard and do as good as I can."
This is not the first time Colon has come to Spring Training on a Minor League contract. He did so with the Yankees in 2011 after sitting out all of the previous year with long list of arm ailments. His career appeared just about over, but he made the Yankees' roster out of Spring Training. Over the next six years, Colon's 80 wins were the 12th most by a Major League pitcher.
Colon was a combined 7-14 with a 6.48 ERA in 28 starts for the Braves and Twins last year, and opponents hit .314 off of him. The Rangers are still willing to give him a chance.
"At some point everybody kind of loses their physical ability over time," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "That's what we have to get our arms around here. Was last year an aberration or not? [Colon] has had a decorated career."
Daniels admitted it will be challenge evaluating a 44-year-old, soft-tossing pitcher in the extreme hitter-friendly environment of Spring Training in Arizona.
"No magic number," Daniels said. "We are going to monitor everything -- effectiveness, command, velocity ... but anytime you have a veteran pitcher, it is a challenge. We made some mistakes taking some guys in the past based on spring performance."
There is really no secret to Colon's success. He throws strikes, puts his fastball where he wants it and uses two decades of baseball experience to guide him.
"He goes out there and makes pitches," Hamels said. "The results don't dictate his emotions, and the results don't dictate his next move. You can just kind of tell he has a plan and he's just there to execute it, and the games ends, and go home. It just seems like a very simple approach.
"For an athlete, that's kind of tough sometimes, because we are driven, we've got fire and we're always trying to push ourselves, and sometimes our emotions can get the better of us. For him, you can just tell this is what he's going to do. I think that shows the confidence that he has because he knows what he's going to do, and he does it. He has no fear."
T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast.