Colon hardly acting his age
Mets' right-hander looks like a 42-year-old, but certainly doesn't pitch like one
PHOENIX -- Prior to Saturday night's game at Chase Field, seemingly ageless Mets right-hander Bartolo Colon strode across the clubhouse with a black fielder's glove on his left hand and his ample belly sagging below his belt.
At 42, Colon looked more like a guy getting ready to play in a company softball game than one about to make his 448th start for his eighth team in 18 big-league seasons.
Rarely does life begin at 40, but since then Colon has won 41 games and was in line to become the first pitcher in Major League Baseball to win for the ninth time this season.
How much fun is all this, Colon was asked through interpreter, bullpen coach and former big league pitcher Ricky Bones?
"It's a special feeling," Colon said after losing, 2-1, to the D-backs on Welington Castillo's two-run homer in the seventh. "Win or lose it's amazing that this has happened at this stage of my career and at my age. We're having a good season so far and one loss isn't going to pull me away from my happiness."
Colon claimed he didn't know he had won so many games as a 40-year-old. At 212-145 overall, he has a pretty spectacular .594 winning percentage.
But on Saturday night, he took his fourth loss against those eight wins. He sailed along until there were two out and nobody on in the D-backs half of the seventh. Suddenly, Colon allowed a single to Chris Owings followed by the homer from a .163-hitting catcher.
Castillo was just obtained from Seattle on Wednesday in the deal that sent Mark Trumbo to the Mariners. He struck out four times in four plate appearances, during his first Arizona start on Friday night. The pitch went out over the plate to the unlikely candidate.
"We were just trying to start him out with a sinker away," said Mets catcher Anthony Recker, who also played with Colon in Oakland three years ago. "He just missed, but it was one of the few mistakes he made all day."
The Mets' lack of run support made it tough on Colon, who nevertheless contributed the eighth quality start in the 12 he's made already this season and had his club in position to win.
Juan Lagares homered in the second and that was it, leaving Colon little room for error. When that mistake happened, it sent a shock wave through the New York dugout.
"Yeah, no question," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's mowing them down, he's facing a guy we know is dangerous -- but Bart's handled him pretty good -- and that's the game."
Still, no one in Metsville can have any complaints. Signed as free agent on Dec. 14, 2013, for two years and $20 million, Colon has been a bargain at the price. He's 23-17 since then after going 28-15 in 54 starts over the course of the 2012-13 seasons with the A's.
This is a pitcher, who in another life -- before missing the entire 2010 season because of elbow problems -- won 21 games for the Angels in 2005 and was voted the American League Cy Young Award winner that season. He was 32 years old back then.
"He's been outstanding. You can't say enough about him," Collins said. "The guy does everything you want him to do. He's professional about the way he goes about his job. He doesn't like to hit, but he's taken it to heart and knows he has to be better at it. And he has. He fields his position. He holds base runners. He pitched his heart out tonight, but we just didn't get him any runs."
To the manager's point, Colon had a two-out, fifth-inning single, one of the 10 Mets hits in the game. He's had four hits in 24 at bats, dragging his chunky body around to second for a double and even driving in three runs. Not bad for a guy who spent his first 16 seasons in the Designated Hitter league.
But what he does best is keep opponents off balance with an array of two-seam and four-seam fastballs, and he did that almost all Saturday night as the D-backs had only five hits, struck out seven times and managed a single walk off Colon in seven innings. Until the Castillo homer, he kept them frustrated.
"He just does a great job, he knows what he's doing," said D-backs manager Chip Hale, who was Bob Melvin's bench coach with the A's when Colon was there. "He's a veteran, he uses both sides of the plate. He's unbelievable. He's a great teammate. He was so good for us in Oakland. I love to see him pitch well, just not against our team."
For sure, there will be other opportunities for Colon to shine this season for a club that is 30-27, hanging half a game behind the Nationals, who are atop the National League East. The Nationals, of course, were supposed to run away and hide from the other four teams in their division with the support of a star-studded cast.
The Mets? They are as unlikely suitors as Colon has been to have won 41 times as a 40-year-old. No one is really supposed to do that.
"The normal guy, no," Collins said. "But he's reinvented himself. He knows what he has to do. He never gets out of his game plan. You know, he's a human being and every once in awhile he's going to make a mistake."
To the contrary, Colon is the normal guy. He looks like one and acts like one. At his advanced for baseball age, he just doesn't pitch like one.