SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Vying to make the Rangers' Opening Day roster and continue his tenure as the oldest man in the Major Leagues, 44-year-old Bartolo Colon made his Cactus League debut Thursday, starting against the Padres and allowing one run -- a solo homer -- and a double with a
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Vying to make the Rangers' Opening Day roster and continue his tenure as the oldest man in the Major Leagues, 44-year-old Bartolo Colon made his Cactus League debut Thursday, starting against the Padres and allowing one run -- a solo homer -- and a double with a strikeout and no walks in two innings.
In the split-squad Rangers' 9-9 tie, Colon threw 32 pitches, 23 of them strikes. The former Indian, Expo, White Sox, Angel, Red Sox, Yankee, Athletic, Met, Brave and Twin signed a Minor League contract with Texas on Feb. 4 after making 28 starts for Atlanta and Minnesota combined last season.
With 240 Major League wins, the Dominican-born Colon has his sights on surpassing Juan Marichal (243) and Dennis Martinez (245) for the most wins by a Latin American pitcher.
"I have personal goals that I want to achieve," Colon said. "I just need to keep working hard and increase my velocity."
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Colon acknowledged he didn't think his career would last this long, especially after he didn't pitch at all in 2010 due to various injuries. Since catching on with the Yankees in 2011, Colon has won 87 more games and posted a 3.96 ERA in 203 starts.
"I'm surprised that I'm here, because in 2010 I thought my career was over," he said.
Thursday, Colon's fastball topped out in the high 80s and he threw first-pitch strikes to seven of the eight batters he faced. To make the roster, Colon must demonstrate good command, something that troubled him with the Braves early in 2017 but has normally been an asset later in his career. Colon had the lowest bases on balls per nine innings in the National League in 2015 (1.1) and '16 (1.5).
"All I need to do is keep working hard, and the decision's up to them," Colon said of his chances of pitching for the Rangers this season.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister traveled with Texas' other squad that played the A's in Mesa, Ariz., so he didn't see Colon pitch in person Thursday. But he said before he left that he remembered his first sight of Colon in the Minors more than two decades ago.
"He was in A-ball in the Carolina League and he was young and throwing a million [miles per hour], it seemed like," Banister said. "Hitters didn't really enjoy the batter's box."
Colon went 13-3 with a 1.96 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 21 starts that year, his second as a professional. If he makes the Rangers, it'll be his 25th season as a pro and his 21st in the Majors. He was baseball's oldest player in each of the past two seasons.
"It's phenomenal," Banister said of Colon's longevity. "A, just to want to do it at that age, and then to be good enough to continue to do it, is incredible. It's fantastic, a great story -- I'd love to see it."
There is one feel-good story that isn't likely to present itself again, however -- at least not in a Rangers uniform. The rotund Colon, never known for his batting prowess, was the darling of every highlight show on the night in 2016 when he hit his first and only home run and lumbered around the bases to the delight of his Mets teammates.
"The American League is where I want to be," Colon said with a smile Thursday, "because I don't have to hit or run."
Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com.