The Mets’ spectacular young starting pitchers get all the attention – and it is certainly well-deserved – but it is the 43-year old arm of Bartolo Colon that is as key as any of other starters to whether they return to the postseason.
That is why it was quite a scare when Colon had to leave his start against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night after four pitches when he got hit by a comebacker from Whit Merrifield.
“We dodged a big one” was how Mets manager Terry Collins put it on Wednesday morning when it was revealed Colon is on track to make his next scheduled start in Atlanta on Sunday.
A fan favorite for many reasons, notably his antics on the basepaths and fun-loving nature, what is lost in his narrative is he is still a pretty good pitcher.
“Bartolo eats up innings, boy, and I mean, they’re quality innings, and if we lost him, we could have been in big trouble,” Collins said.
When the Mets signed the then 40 year-old in 2013 after an 18-win season, there was skepticism on what he had left. Well that tank proved to be full and the club couldn’t re-sign him fast enough after he won 15 games in 2014 and 14 games in 2015, a season that he cemented his tole as ol’ reliable.
Colon delivered in the playoffs for the Mets last year as he came out of the bullpen and pitched in the setup role. This was a great idea by Collins because Colon was the only pitcher with playoff experience and is the kind of guy that can get an out anytime. The Amazin’s are in no position to think that far ahead now, but Colon probably would be used in the same spot if the Mets return to the postseason.
As durable a starter as anyone in baseball, Colon is 6-3 this season with a 3.00 ERA, over a run less than last season. He has thrown 81 innings in his 15 starts, around six innings per outing and on track for nearly 200 for the season.
Any pitcher that gives up three runs in six innings per start always gives his team a chance to win.
With Colon, who has been in the majors since 1997, there is a stability that he provides, especially if he is taking the mound after a loss. You can count on one hand how many bad outings he has had in his time with the Mets.
On Tuesday night, Colon was diagnosed with a right thumb bruise, but that x-rays were negative.
“The first thought that popped into my head was, ‘God, please don’t let this be a broken thumb,’ because I just had never been hit there before,” Colon said through an interpreter after Tuesday night’s 2-1 Mets win. “So I just had to pause and think about it.”
On Wednesday morning, Collins sounded very calm, probably relieved, when giving an update on Colon.
“He’s doing fine, he’s good a little swelling left, but good flexibility, good strength, right now we certainly plan on having him start on Sunday (in Atlanta),” the manager said.
The Mets need Colon to stay healthy because Zack Wheeler’s return from Tommy John surgery is dragging on deeper into this season.
“We dodged a big one. Obviously with the situation with Zack (Wheeler), which looks like it’s going to be delayed a little bit longer than we anticipated, so if we had lost him (Colon), fortunately we have Erik (Goeddel), Sean (Gilmartin), and Logan (Verrett) would have come up to start.
Fortunately though, that doesn’t seem to be needed. The Mets dodged a bullet.