By Rich Mancuso
Thursday night at Citi Field, Bartolo Colon came out of the player’s area in the New York Mets clubhouse and there was the usual conclave of media waiting for the righthander to give his post game comments. He briefly smiled and a Mets’ publicity assistant who works as an interpreter for Latino players on the team waited for the first question.
It was about Colon and his lead off double in the third inning, and how he would later run the bases and score a run. At 43-years of age, he became the fourth pitcher since 1913 to hit a double and a home run in the same season and it was described as entertaining.
“I don’t like to run very much, but I imagine the fans have a lot of fun watching me out there running,” he said through the interpreter.
The 33,052 fans at Citi Field, manager Terry Collins, and his teammates are more than content that the Dominican pitcher is still around. The appearances at the plate may be entertaining, however, the arm at his age is still going strong and helping the Mets try to once again return to the World Series in October.
Colon, tossed 7.2 innings and allowed two runs to earn his sixth win of the season. The Mets would take two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 6-4 win, and it was the fifth game this season of walking one or fewer. Indeed, it is not only Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz who are highly touted on this Mets pitching staff.
Because Bartolo Colon does not look like an athlete, no muscles and huge biceps, does not mean he can’t throw a baseball. He is fun to watch and has quietly been doing the job since arriving in Flushing with the Mets in 2014. There is no telling when Colon will throw his last pitch, and if that arm stays healthy he could continue to be the oldest active pitcher in baseball.
After leading off with that double against the Pirates’ righthander Juan Nicasio, it was entertaining watching Colon going to third base when Curtis Granderson singled. He would then score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. The fans cheered and were entertained and in the Mets dugout the usual and good laugh from his teammates when he arrived.
“I was watching just now on TV,” he said after viewing a replay of his baserunning skills. “It looks like they enjoyed themselves,” he commented about the fans.
It may be entertaining at the plate, and on the base paths. However, manager Terry Collins looks forward to his fifth man in the rotation when Colon gets the start. It has been reliable and efficient pitching and a good reading comes early when Colon gets out of the first inning without any trouble. Collins and the Mets are looking for that to continue as the season progresses. There has been no discussion, for the moment, about putting Colon in the bullpen when righthander Zach Wheeler is expected to return to the rotation next month after a full recovery from Tommy John Surgery.
Collins said: “He’s a stabilizing factor. “As our young stars try to get themselves going he’s just so consistent. He just does the same thing night after night. He never beats himself. He makes you swing the bat to beat him. He doesn’t walk guys. Obviously he fields his position great.”
And the manager said, “It’s something to watch. It’s truly amazing.”
Colon works his pitches all over the plate and they go up and down, and out. The fastball is also consistent and in nine innings he is fourth best in the National League with the consistent fastball that averages 86 on the radar gun.
“He adds substance,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle about the pitch selection. “86-91. Cuts, sinks, it runs in and out of the zone. Moves it out of the zone, out of the middle.” And though Colon is not a candidate for Cy Young Award honors, that is enough to keep a team in the ballgame.
Thursday night, seven of his eight strikeouts got the Pirates caught looking. It is that tendency to keep the ball away from the middle and that has cut down throwing the home run ball. The location is making Bartolo Colon this amazing pitcher, and at his age there are no complaints.
“You talk about some of the 43- year olds who have pitched in baseball they were knuckleballers and off speed guys,” Collins said. “This guy goes with a fastball. He’s a unique animal. And he does it with an air of confidence that he believes he can get you out.”
“He’s entertaining,” added Collins. “We just didn’t want him to blow out running around those bases. When he was headed to third base, I was a little concerned there. For 5 and a half seconds I was really concerned but he scored and went out and pitched great.”
Colon took a four-hit shutout into the eighth inning and won his third straight game. The strikeouts were a season high and issuing no walks, again that helped his cause along with the run support of three home runs from Curtis Granderson, and back-to-back jacks off the bats of Neil Walker and Michael Conforto.
Phil Niekro, Warren Span and Dazzy Vance were the other pitchers since 1913 at that age to have a home run and double in the same season. But in the end, it is the pitching of Bartolo Colon that continues to be a good story at Citi Field.
And on a day when the Mets got word that their captain, David Wright may be done with season ending surgery to his neck, having Bartolo Colon throw another good gem and entertain was the proper remedy.