Texas Rangers

Colon confident, but can he crack Rangers' rotation?

Far be it for most media members to say anything snarky about Bartolo Colon's physical stature, but, alas, the hypocrisy of most knows no bounds.

Suffice it to say, he's not built like the normal baseball player. He's also 44 years old, almost 45, and for the past few seasons has been competing for jobs against pitchers nearly half is age.

He has held his own, too.

So when someone knocks him for his heft or his years, or calls him "Big Sexy," he shrugs it off. He knows who he is, has adapted to what he must do these days, and believes that what his right arm and experience offers can still get major-league hitters out.

But he went through a weather-altered first spring workout Thursday for Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers with no guarantees of a spot on the Opening Day roster, even with the Rangers leaning toward using some form of a six-man rotation this season.

He knows what's ahead and that it appears his chances aren't good. And that's fine by him.

"It doesn't bother me at all," Colon said. "I know I have to work hard and do as good as I can."

Colon wouldn't have signed a minor-league deal with the Rangers if he didn't think he could make the team. General manager Jon Daniels was pretty succinct when assessing Colon's chances.

He's facing an uphill climb.

"You're talking about a veteran guy, 45-year-old, willing to come in and truly compete for a spot," Daniels said. "I give him credit for that. We're looking for some depth and competition in camp. We'll see where it goes.

"If everybody's good in our rotation and healthy, we like where we stand, but it never hurts to add competition."

The age thing is the big one for Colon, who said that he has been pitching 15 seasons with his current body type and has adapted to it. At 44 years and 267 days, he still has bullets remaining.

They just don't travel as fast as they once did.

Colby Lewis, the former Rangers pitcher who is now a special assistant to Daniels, remembers Colon when he had 99 miles per hour in his back pocket in case of trouble.

Colon's average fastball velocity last season was 87.9 mph with Atlanta and Minnesota, where he saved his season and possibly extended his career to a 21st season should he crack an MLB roster in 2018.

But he pounds away with the heater, primarily a sinker. He threw fastballs 82.7 percent of the time in 2017, and that was down 6.8 percent. He also throws it for strikes, something that the Rangers hope rubs off on every pitcher in camp.

It wasn't always like that. He walked 98 batters in 2000, but hasn't issued more than since 2005.

"I don't throw hard anymore, but what's very important for me as a pitcher is to throw strikes. I'm a strike-thrower," said Colon, who has 240 career wins. "The one thing I do different than before is I put the ball wherever I want."

Right fielder Nomar Mazara, who was born 28 days before Colon turned 22, was in the lineup last season when Colon allowed four runs on nine hits in a complete-game win for Minnesota.

Any pitcher around the plate as much as Colon is going to give up hits, but he didn't beat himself. Mazara was the only batter Colon walked.

"He was locating his stuff wherever he wanted," Mazara said. "For sure, he was able to beat us. He knows what he needs to do."

Left-hander Cole Hamels threw a complete game the next day. He is 10 years younger than Colon.

"I’m like, 'Oh, OK. He raised the bar pretty high,'" said Hamels, a workout fanatic who is as lean as Colon is not. "I think it’s you know your body. Not everybody is going to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger out there. But I just think in order to throw a baseball, you have to understand how to do it, how to get there so you can there, and then have the endurance to be able to do so.

"But if you’re mentally content going out there, and you know you’re in the right shape and you’re prepared for the game, you’re probably going to get through it."

Colon's mind is sound, even as crazy as the notion as a 44-year-old pitching in the majors might seem. The game is still fun. He loves being around his teammates. He wants his family to know how long he pitched at baseball's top level.

It might be with the Rangers, who are trying to iron out the many wrinkles in their plans to use six starters. One of them, Martin Perez, might be unable to start the season even though he insists his broken right elbow won't be an issue.

Another, Matt Bush, might find himself in the bullpen full time.

The road isn't entirely blocked for Colon, who isn't ready to retire yet.

"It's something that I talk about with my family," he said. "When I talked to my mother before she passed away [four years ago], I told I would play as long as I can. And that's what I'm doing."

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