Bartolo Colon struggles again, which might eventually land him on the outside looking in
Going into Friday night’s game in Denver, it wasn’t too difficult to predict what might have happened to Bartolo Colon in his scheduled start.
He allowed seven runs on nine hits with two walks and only one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings.
Included in those seven runs were three home runs: a solo shot a piece from Carlos Gonzalez and Ben Paulsen and a three-run home run from Nolan Arenado.
But also included in Colon’s outing was something unexpected.
In the top of the second inning with two on and one out, Colon squared to bunt, but Rockies RHP Jon Gray hit Colon on his right wrist.
Manager Terry Collins and Ray Ramirez spent quite a bit of time examining Colon, who was deemed ok to remain in the game and run the bases.
But after the Mets proceeded to post six runs against the Rockies in the second, Colon took the mound with an increasingly growing welt on his wrist, and he immediately surrendered the home run to Paulsen.
From that point on, Colon was only able to record five more outs before the bullpen took over. But by then the Rockies had roared all the way back from being down 7-1 to tie the score at 8-8.
“It’s a little swollen, but overall I’m ok,” Colon said after the game. “It did affect me a little bit, but it’s not an excuse. It’s got nothing to do with my performance.”
Collins and Ramirez visited with Colon after he allowed the home run to Paulsen in the third inning, but he convinced his manager he could remain in the game.
X-rays were negative on Colon’s forearm.
Collins summed Colon’s problems on Friday up to one very simple thing.
“This is a tough place to pitch when you rely on a fastball,” Collins explained. If you don’t strike people out in this park, you’re going to give up runs.”
This was a recipe doomed for failure on Friday, and pretty much every onlooker expected it. He throws 80 percent or more fastballs in his games, and with a fastball which sits in the upper 80s to low 90s consistently, if his location is the slightest off, he’s going to get pummeled.
That’s happened time and time again to Colon in 2015. In fact, Friday marked the tenth time in 24 starts Colon has allowed four or more runs in a start. If the Coors Field affect is factored in and Colon doesn’t have his control – as was the case on Friday – runs can score in a hurry against him, as the Rockies showed in only 3 2/3 innings.
“I’m not the only pitcher who suffers in this ballpark. Even the bullpen coach,” Colon joked, referring to bullpen coach Ricky Bones.
The objective for the Mets was to simply outscore the Rockies on Friday. Fortunately they did and Colon was grateful the offense picked him up in what was another lost start for the veteran right-hander.
“I’m glad the team picked me up and they came back and we got a key victory,” Colon said.
In his last seven starts, Colon is 1-4 with a 6.08 ERA in only 40 innings. He’s allowed 53 hits and seven walks with only 23 strikeouts and eight home runs allowed.
He’s 6-11 with a 5.37 ERA in 20 starts since April 29.
The Mets are going to be faced with a decision regarding Colon should they reach the postseason. His most recent performance could be very telling as to where he is at this point in the season, and perhaps his career as well.
And that decision could very well leave Colon on the outside looking in. From a rotation perspective, he’s just not among the top four starting pitchers on the roster. With Steven Matz returning, he’s not in the top five, either.
He could conceivably be in the bullpen, but there’s no evidence he can pitch in relief at this stage of his career. It’s been four years since his last relief appearance, and he’s made a total of six relief appearances in his 19-year career.
Even with the bullpen in it’s beleaguered state, he might not be ahead of anyone on the depth chart there, either.
Still, he does have value to the club right now.
First off, he is the leader the Mets signed him to be on the pitching staff. So many pitchers – young and old – have sought Colon out as a mentor over the last two years, and many have argued they are better because of Colon. His leadership and experience are vital for such an inexperienced clubhouse.
Second, his main assignment is to give the Mets enough innings in his starts to keep the team in the game, and not get knocked out early.
In a way, he did that on Friday despite getting pummeled and blowing a six run lead. Again, in that ballpark with his stuff, his performance was predictable.
He is also charged with lengthening the rotation to give Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom extra days of rest next month.
There will probably be more throwaway starts from Colon, but when the Mets go to a six-man rotation in September, his exposure will be limited and the bullpen will be extended when rosters expand, which will allow Collins to cut bait if he does indeed struggle in a start.
But at this point in his career, perhaps going to a six-man rotation will be helpful for Colon, as the extra rest and recovery will give him a little more sharpness every six or seven days.
If he can do all of this effectively enough, he will have done his job for this team both in 2014 and 2015.