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Tough outing leaves Colon's role uncertain

After strong start to spring, righty allows three homers to Royals' regulars
MLB.com @Sullivan_Ranger

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A rough outing against the Royals on a windy Saturday afternoon has not rattled Bartolo Colon's confidence. Twenty-year veterans do not get rattled by one bad game.

Colon still believes he is going to be pitching in the big leagues when the season opens, even if it is in the bullpen.

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A rough outing against the Royals on a windy Saturday afternoon has not rattled Bartolo Colon's confidence. Twenty-year veterans do not get rattled by one bad game.

Colon still believes he is going to be pitching in the big leagues when the season opens, even if it is in the bullpen.

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"I have that in my mind," Colon said. "No matter what happens, my goal is to pitch in the big leagues, whether it is here or somewhere else. As long as I have my confidence, I know I can pitch in the big leagues. And I still have that confidence."

Colon entered Saturday's start against the Royals with a 1.04 ERA in four Cactus League starts, raising the possibility that he could crash the Rangers' rotation. That hope may have been dealt a setback after he allowed five runs in four innings in Texas' 7-6 loss. Colon gave up seven hits, including three home runs.

Colon was going against most of the Royals' regulars. Lucas Duda and Jorge Soler hit back-to-back home runs in a four-run first inning and Mike Moustakas hit one out in the third. Colon relies mainly on his sinker, and he was leaving it over the plate in the mid-80s.

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"Not as sharp as he has been," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "Most everything was flat across the zone. It looked like he was fighting to get the ball to a location and couldn't do it."

There is still time to get Colon at least one more start, but he may get a clearer indication of his situation on Sunday, after left-hander Martin Perez makes his first start in a Cactus League game. Perez, almost fully recovered from the broken bone in the tip of his right elbow, is scheduled to throw 75 pitches. The Rangers just need to see if the young lefty can field his position and if the injury has had any impact on his preparation, mechanics or endurance on the mound.

Perez has made it clear he will be ready for the season. The Rangers are reserving judgment.

"Perez has to hit his marks," Banister said. "We have to get to that point. That will be part of the process. He's got to go out and pitch. He has to come out of it healthy. Bartolo is going to continue to pitch and compete. There are still some moving parts."

This contest may decide the final spot in the bullpen. The Rangers haven't officially announced that Mike Minor will be in the rotation, but he appears to have won a job.

"I think Minor has done a really solid job of solidifying himself into that rotation," Banister said. "That's our plan. We are running downhill with that one."

Video: OAK@TEX: Minor breaks down pitch repertoire vs. A's

If Perez is ready to go, he would be the fifth starter. The best the Rangers could do with Colon at that point is use him as the long reliever/swing starter out of the bullpen. That's a role that the Rangers had in mind for Jesse Chavez.

"We need at least five," Banister said. "It would be hard to start the season with four. Until Martin gets on that field, hits all the marks ... we have to have all these guys go pitch and be ready as if they were going to be a part of it."

Colon said he is willing to take that role after discussing it with Dan Warthen, the Rangers' assistant pitching coach. Warthen was Colon's pitching coach with the Mets.

"I will do anything I need to do to make the team," Colon said.

Colon won 62 games for the Mets in a four-year period between 2013-16, pitching to a 3.59 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. But he fell off to 7-14 with a 6.48 ERA in 28 starts with the Braves and Twins last year. And he is 44 years old.

So the Rangers are left with two calls to make regarding Colon: is there still anything left? And if so, is there a spot for him on the Opening Day roster?

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.

Texas Rangers, Bartolo Colon, Martin Perez