Bartolo Colon has seamlessly transitioned into a reliable reliever this fall
Aside from Jeurys Familia, the steadiest arm the Mets have in the bullpen could be one that has made eight regular season appearances out of the bullpen among the 475 he’s made in his career.
It’s a guy who had 14 regular season victories, the most on the pitching staff. He has more wins as a Met in the last two years than anyone else on the pitching staff as well.
That guy’s name is Bartolo Colon, who has stepped in seamlessly as a key reliever for the Mets in a bullpen which hasn’t seen it’s best times during the course of the playoffs to date.
Colon has appeared in there of the first four games of the Division Series against the Dodgers and has really done his job in all of them despite being charged with a blown save and a run in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium.
He was assigned the task of getting Howie Kendrick out in the seventh inning of game two with the Mets leading 2-1. Terry Collins used Colon in that spot because Kendrick was 2-for-22 lifetime off of the 42-year-old right-hander.
“We used him in LA because we knew we were going to get a groundball, and we got a groundball,” Collins said late Tuesday at Citi Field. “It’s nice to know you’ve got a guy down there that you’re not concerned about base on balls.”
Colon got the groundball. The result wasn’t good behind him, through no fault of his own or either Daniel Murphy or Ruben Tejada.
He then appeared for two innings in game three and allowed a meaningless solo home run to Adrian Gonzalez, and he stepped in for Steven Matz in game four for two innings of scoreless relief, and pitching in back-to-back outings at that.
“He was outstanding again,” Collins said in praise of Colon on Tuesday night. “Anytime you mention Bartolo Colon’s name, it’s the same. He pounds the strike zone, keeps the ball down for the most part, fields his position, all the things you want done, holds runners.”
There were questions as to why Colon didn’t pitch a third inning to get the ball to Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning, but Collins said he wanted to limit Colon’s exposure against the Dodgers, who had already seen him twice before in this series.
“When you talk about a long man in relief, they’re two-inning guys, because they gotta come up and hit again,” the manager explained. “So for the most part that’s all we thought we’d use him – to get a couple of innings out of him and see what we had left.”
Collins admits there was a lot of mystery surrounding Colon and his ability to pitch in relief, considering 467 of his 475 career appearances have been as a starter.
And as far as did we think about what we had in the bullpen, we didn’t know because he hadn’t done a lot of relieving in his career. We just said when we put him down there, we knew we had somebody that could come in.”
But the gamble has paid off for Collins and the Mets, as Colon has been the most serviceable, flexible and flat out reliable reliever in the bullpen in the first four games of this series.
And he will be available again in the do-or-die game five in Los Angeles on Thursday.
As late as three weeks ago, it was questionable whether or not Colon would even be on the postseason roster. Then when Steven Matz hurt his back in late September, his fate became more certain – he would either start for Matz in game four or serve in the club’s bullpen, potentially as insurance for Matz in case his back flared up during the playoffs.
Now, Colon is thriving in the bullpen, proving that even at age-42, anyone with simply a desire can find a way and serve the team in any role he’s asked to fill.
In fact, Collins said Colon – like Jon Niese – volunteered to go to the bullpen for the playoffs, Collins said.
“He’s going to give up hits.,” Collins explained. But he just throws strikes. He’s never going to change. He can pitch, for 42 years old, he’s the same guy. He’s got command of his stuff. You know they are going to put the ball in play. The three strikeouts [in game three] night were a little freakish. But if we catch the ball, he’s going to be ok.”
Ok is an understatement for Colon’s body of work in the playoffs.
And that he’s been able to prove how flexible and versatile he is and to do it with no shame or ego proves how invaluable he is – and has been – to this franchise.
It’s too bad he’s unlikely to get any plate appearances during the playoffs.