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Old hats proving age is nothing but a number

MLB is stocked with young stars, but say hello to 40-and-up crowd
MLB.com

Everyone is in love with Major League Baseball's 25-and-under crowd, and with good reason: This is the best crop of young players the game has seen. But for every Nuke LaLoosh there is a Crash Davis; for every rookie World Series champion John Lackey, there is a 38-year-old John Lackey, about to receive his third World Series ring and still going strong.

So with all due respect to Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and the wunderkinds, let's take a look at the other end of the age spectrum.

Everyone is in love with Major League Baseball's 25-and-under crowd, and with good reason: This is the best crop of young players the game has seen. But for every Nuke LaLoosh there is a Crash Davis; for every rookie World Series champion John Lackey, there is a 38-year-old John Lackey, about to receive his third World Series ring and still going strong.

So with all due respect to Mike Trout, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and the wunderkinds, let's take a look at the other end of the age spectrum.

1. Bartolo Colon, 43, Braves (May 24, 1973)
Colon already has one standing O under his belt this season, thanks to Mets fans during Opening Day introductions at Citi Field, and he pitched well in his first start for Atlanta in a no-decision Wednesday opposite Jacob deGrom. Colon has thrown 190 or more innings in four consecutive seasons, all in his 40s.

2. Ichiro Suzuki, 43, Marlins (Oct. 22, 1973)
Ichiro entered the season with 3,030 hits in the Majors, on top of a regular career in Japan, and he has begun his 25th season in professional baseball. And he wants to keep playing to 50. "I'm not joking when I say it," Ichiro told The Miami Herald. "Nobody knows what the future holds. ... When you retire from baseball, you have until the day you die to rest."

3. R.A. Dickey, 42, Braves (Oct. 29, 1974)
The last time Dickey pitched a full season in the National League, he had 20 wins for the Mets and won the NL Cy Young Award. Atlanta brought him back into the NL East largely because of his ability to eat innings: 200-plus every year from 2011-15, and then 169 2/3 last season for Toronto. Dickey chalked a rough Spring Training up to just getting his body ready and not focusing on results of at-bats.

4. Koji Uehara, 42, Cubs (April 3, 1975)
No one mentioned it, but when Uehara faced Matt Carpenter in the seventh inning of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball opener at St. Louis, it was a rematch of the final at-bat of the 2013 World Series -- when he struck out Carpenter as Boston's closer. The Cubs want Uehara's veteran experience in their bid to repeat, and in that NL debut he gave up a walk and a single but got out of the inning as Yadier Molina hit a 79-mph splitter for a 4-3 groundout after four straight 86-mph two-seamers.

5. Jason Grilli, 40, Blue Jays (Nov. 11, 1976)
With Roberto Osuna starting the season on the disabled list, Grilli and Joe Biagini are the closers-by-committee. Osuna is expected to be available for the home opener on Tuesday against Milwaukee, and the decision in the meantime will be based on matchups and earlier-inning usage. Grilli has 79 saves over a 15-year career. "Grilli would be the ideal guy," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He's done it before."

6. Bronson Arroyo, 40, Reds (Feb. 24, 1977)
Until Saturday's start against the Cardinals, Arroyo hadn't pitched in the Majors since 2014, when he went on the DL for the first time in his career with elbow and shoulder trouble. The Reds hope Arroyo will have a mentoring impact on their young staff, as Scott Feldman was to be followed in the rotation by Brandon Finnegan (23), Rookie Davis (23) and Amir Garrett (24).

7. Fernando Rodney, 40, D-backs (March 18, 1977)
A little luck probably helps when you get into your 40s. On Opening Day against the Giants, Rodney was called in for the ninth inning with a 4-4 tie, as Arizona's new closer -- his eighth MLB club in 15 seasons. He was greeted by Joe Panik's triple and Conor Gillaspie's sac fly, but Arizona bailed out Rodney with a walk-off win. Nevertheless, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo is counting on Rodney, who was in All-Star form early for San Diego last season, bringing a quality changeup that sets up a middle-90s heater. He'll help keep the clubhouse loose, if nothing else.

8. Carlos Beltran, 39, Astros (April 24, 1977)
We're just into Hall of Fame resume-polishing at this point, and Beltran wouldn't mind a first World Series ring after turning 40 later this month. He can't possibly be as good as he was the last year we saw him in an Astros uniform -- the 2004 postseason, when he crushed eight homers. Houston just hopes its designated hitter is around last year's level, when he played 151 games, went to his ninth All-Star Game and finished with a line of .295/.337/.513.

9. Joaquin Benoit, 39, Phillies (July 26, 1977)
Trivia question: Who is the only active player who was in uniform for the first live Major League streamed game? Answer: Benoit, who was in the Rangers' bullpen that day at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 26, 2002, having started for Texas the night before. Like MLB.TV, he just keeps going.

10. Chad Qualls, 38, Rockies (Aug. 17, 1978)
If you want to know how good Beltran was back in 2004, just ask Qualls, a rookie in the Astros' bullpen that season. Qualls is starting the season on Colorado's 10-day DL due to "elbow discomfort," so the club is being cautious. He is in the second year of a two-year, $6 million deal, having struggled in '16.

Next on the list is Lackey (Oct. 23, 1978), and many more key contributors, like Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, who turned 38 on Friday. Reliever Joe Nathan, 42, is still battling with Washington's Triple-A club. It's clear: no North American pro sport has as much middle-age impact as baseball.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.