Dan's Dugout: Don't Bet Against Bartolo • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Don’t Bet Against Bartolo

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I was one of the guys who was betting against Bartolo Colon even throwing a big-league pitch in 2018.

He was too old, too fat, and too dejected to succeed, especially in the blistering heat of Texas, and the Rangers already had a rotation that seemed rock-solid. Standing in his way as spring training started were Cole Hamels, Mike Minor, Matt Moore, Martin Perez, and Doug Fister.

Bartolo Colon has been hot and cold for Texas, his latest team

Motivated by a desire to match Juan Marichal’s record of most wins by a Dominican pitcher, and the Dennis Martinez mark of most wins by any Latino, Colon entered the year with 240 victories, three behind Marichal and five behind Martinez. Based upon his age, physique, and 2017 performance, Colon spent the winter wondering whether anyone would sign him.

Then came the Rangers with a late-winter offer of $1.75 million plus incentives, albeit in a minor-league deal. Money-wise, it was a fast fall for a fellow who reached a career peak in salary when the Atlanta Braves gave him $12.5 million to head south for 2017. He proved to be the biggest bust in years – in more ways than one.

The rotund Dominican went just 2-8 for the Braves, who gave him repeated opportunities to right the ship before admitting the marriage was a mistake. An 8.14 earned run average strongly suggested the 20-year veteran was finally over the hill.

But the Minnesota Twins, paying Colon only the minimum $500,000 while the Braves covered the rest of his guaranteed contract, took a chance and got better results: five victories but a 5.18 ERA. It looked like the end for the lovable prankster.

He had other thoughts, however.

Bartolo Colon needs one win to match Juan Marichal

With Marichal and Martinez in his sights, Colon convinced the Rangers that he could still win. He told general manager Jon Daniels that his location was still good even if his velocity wasn’t, that he could locate his 88 mph fastball to any spot around home plate.

The minute others went down with injuries, he got his chance.

He had clunkers against the Yankees May 21 and Angels June 1, giving up six earned runs both times, but also picked up victories against the Blue Jays April 28 and Mariners May 16.

In his best game, he throttled the heavy-hitting Houston Astros, taking a perfect game into the eighth at hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park. After yielding a hit and a walk, Colon came out of the game, eventually a 3-1 Texas win, without a decision.

Charged with one earned run when the Texas bullpen allowed an inherited runner to score, Colon was determined to do better next time. On the night of May 16, he did, throwing 7 2/3 scoreless frames at Seattle. That 5-1 win, his second, lowered Colon’s ERA to an impressive 2.82.

It now stands at 4.21, thanks to the recent clunkers, but it’s not bad for a pitcher who just marked his 45th birthday. Colon actually has a chance to duplicate Jamie Moyer’s feat of pitching in the majors at age 49, a record for any pitcher not named Satchel Paige. An ageless infielder named Julio Franco was also 49 when he retired in 2007.

Unlike Franco, Colon is no master of fitness. In fact, he’s unquestionably the fattest man in the majors, though also one of the most jovial.

Bartolo Colon was a bust for the Braves last year

A cunning prankster who likes to scare teammates with loud noises, Colon speaks English well but still insists on using an interpreter for interviews.

He has lots to talk about: two 20-win seasons, a Cy Young award, and even a home run – the only one he ever hit – at pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego two years ago. A flamethrower
in his younger days with the Indians, he even had two seasons with more than 200 strikeouts.

The four-time All-Star leads all active pitchers in wins with 242 but any thoughts of reaching 300 are ludicrous.

Bartolo Colon has pitched for 11 teams, some of them in separate stints, and may pitch for several more. Then again, he may retire after reaching Marichal and Martinez.

After all, carrying 300 pounds on his 5’11” frame can might get tiring.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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