Dan's Dugout: Mets Enjoy Strong Spring Start • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Mets Enjoy Strong Spring Start

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – In baseball, as in life, age is a matter of mind. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.

The oldest men in the majors are planning to be major performers this season.

Bartolo Colon is rounding into shape with Atlanta. Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Bartolo Colon is rounding into shape with Atlanta. Credit: Dan Schlossberg

Bartolo Colon, pushing 44, has a slight edge in years over Ichiro Suzuki, also 43 but a few months younger.

Colon, starting his first year with the Atlanta Braves after signing as a free agent, worked out all winter and got himself into contention for his new team’s Opening Day pitching assignment.

It just so happens that the Braves open at CitiField against the Mets, the team they trounced in a spring training game here Friday, and sudden muscle man Noah Syndergaard.

The rotund Colon, a 15-game winner and innings eater for the 2016 Mets, is chasing the Latino record for wins held by Dennis Martinez (245) and is determined to get there sooner rather than later. He pitched well in a three-inning stint against Philadelphia Wednesday but is about to join the Dominican team in the World Baseball Classic.

Age is no handicap to Ichiro Suzuki Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

Age is no handicap to Ichiro Suzuki.
Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

As for Ichiro, the Japanese import is chasing 3,000 hits and a Hall of Fame berth. With the possible exception of Gioncarlo Stanton, he’s the biggest draw in a Marlins uniform.

Adding together his hit totals in both the Japanese and American majors makes Ichiro the real Hit King. Just don’t tell Pete Rose.

Neither Colon nor Ichiro will still be playing at age 50 – a distinction reserved for Minnie Minoso, who did it as a Bill Veeck publicity stunt, and Julio Franco, whose birth certificate has more holes than a crate of Swiss cheese. Franco, still in fantastic shape, is still playing somewhere, presumably as a player-manager in Mexico or Korea.

Now that Colon is gone, the Mets don’t have many graybeards on their roster.

All five of their starting pitchers and their leading slugger, Yoenis Cespedes, are under 30. Their oldest players are outfielder Curtis Granderson, third baseman Jose Reyes, and closer Jeurys Famlia, all coming off solid seasons. But a suspension looms over the pitcher’s head like the Sword of Damocles.

Charges have been dropped in his off-season domestic violence arrest but the

Jeurys Familia faces a suspension soon Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Jeurys Familia faces a suspension soon
Photo Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

baseball commissioner is certain to slap him with a ban of a month or two. The length of that ban could determine whether or not the Mets go far in the 2017 postseason.

So far, manager Terry Collins is pleased with his team’s progress. Entering play Friday, the Mets were hitting .299 as a team – second in the major leagues – and slugging .489, second in the Grapefruit League.

The Mets showed power too, homering in all but two of their first 14 exhibition games. Cespedes, not surprisingly, tops the team with three of them.

Most eyes this spring are focused on the elbow of Zack Wheeler, who missed both of the last two seasons during a slow recuperation from Tommy John surgery. The righthanded flamethrower started against the Braves Friday and pitched well in his two innings of work.

Wheeler led the 2014 Mets in wins, starts, and strikeouts but submitted to the surgery on March 24, 2015. His start Friday was his first of the exhibition season.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Good to see Frank (Sweet Music) Viola, pitching coach for Triple-A Buffalo, as a special traveling instructor with the varsity in Disney’s Champion Stadium Friday . . .

R.A. Dickey's pet pitch helps him eat innings

R.A. Dickey’s pet pitch helps him eat innings

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who won a Cy Young Award while pitching for the Mets, was supposed to start against his old club but was reassigned to a simulated game at the last minute . . .

Three-time All-Star second baseman Brandon Phillips, acquired from Cincinnati last month, has given the Braves a big boost at bat and in the field . . .

Both Grapefruit League and World Baseball Classic games are being heavily scouted, with trade rumors swirling around several clubs . . .

Players, coaches, and managers are united in their dislike of the newly-imposed automatic intentional walk.

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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