TORONTO -- R.A. Dickey used to say it every spring. Teams that make the postseason always have at least one player who comes out of nowhere -- a player who entered the year with low expectations but became a key contributor and unlikely hero.In 2015, that player for the Blue
TORONTO -- R.A. Dickey used to say it every spring. Teams that make the postseason always have at least one player who comes out of nowhere -- a player who entered the year with low expectations but became a key contributor and unlikely hero.
In 2015, that player for the Blue Jays was Chris Colabello -- the same Colabello who spent most of his career playing independent ball before breaking into the Major Leagues in 2013 with Minnesota at age 29 and later becoming a mainstay at first base on Toronto's run to the American League Championship Series.
Colabello's time with the Blue Jays came to an end almost as soon as it began. He tested positive for a banned substance the following spring and hasn't appeared in the big leagues since. But in Toronto, he will be remembered for playing a pivotal role as the Blue Jays snapped their 22-year postseason drought.
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"He was one of those guys that was hitting .330 almost all year and kind of took some pressure off of Josh Donaldson, took some pressure off some of the guys that we already had here," Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez said.
"He fit right into the scheme of things when he was out there playing. ... He was a guy that kept everybody afloat, had some big hits in some big wins earlier in the year that got us to that point."
Colabello joined the Blue Jays without fanfare as an offseason waiver claim, but just months later, he was a household name north of the border. A case could be made that Toronto would not have been in position to load up at that year's non-waiver Trade Deadline -- acquiring David Price, Troy Tulowitzki and others -- without Colabello's contributions in May and June. He finished the 2015 season hitting .321/.367/.520 with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs over 101 games.
The moment that Colabello might be remembered the most for came in Game 4 of the AL Division Series vs. the Rangers. The Blue Jays lost the first two games of that best-of-five series and needed to win three straight to advance. It was a daunting task, but after a 5-1 victory in Game 3, there was renewed hope.
That's when Colabello helped open Game 4 with a bang. Toronto had already taken a 2-0 lead when Colabello stepped to the plate in the first inning, and he sent a pitch from Derek Holland over the wall in right. Just like that, the Blue Jays had all the momentum heading into the decisive Game 5.
"I remember before that game we were around the batting cage," Toronto manager John Gibbons recently recalled. "[Russell Martin] has always had the most opposite-field power on the team, and we're taking BP, and he hit a couple of bombs that way.
"I think I made the comment like, 'Who has the most oppo power on the team?' I said, 'Russ does.' Donaldson gave me one of his looks. Colabello was in the group, too, and says, 'I do.' Then he goes out that night and hits it out. He came in and reminded me of that."
Colabello finished the 2015 ALDS with a .375 average, two doubles, a pair of RBIs and three runs scored. He added a couple of extra-base hits in the AL Championship Series against the Royals, and he was set to return as the Blue Jays' first baseman the following year until his positive test.
Colabello sat out almost all of 2016, and he then spent all of '17 in the Minors. Even though Colabello's run with Toronto proved to be short-lived, it's also clear he left a mark.
"You can look back on most postseason series, and there's always this unsung hero," Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar said. "We had a lineup full of some pretty talented players. We had the league MVP, we had three guys hit over 40 [homers], we had guys by the name of Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin rounding out our lineup.
"Then a guy by the name of Chris Colabello that was the most consistent hitter, came up with some big hits, got some rallies going, put together good at-bats when we needed him. I think a lot of people will always remember his contributions to that team."
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.