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Ancient Bartolo Colón Readies Himself For Return To Majors

Bartolo Colon is still pitching. Credit: Dan Schlossberg, Latino Sports

Bartolo Colón doesn’t give up.

Even though he’ll celebrate his 48th birthday next month, the rotund right-hander is still an active pitcher – for Acereros de Monclova in the Mexican League.

A four-time All-Star with a Cy Young Award on his trophy shelf, Colón has 247 career victories, more than any Latino pitcher. But he wants to add to that total.

The last active player from the Montreal Expos, Colón is also the last active big-leaguer who played in the ‘90s. He last pitched in the majors for the 2018 Texas Rangers.

Dubbed “Big Sexy” by New York media after reports surfaced that he fathered children out of wedlock, the good-natured pitcher decided to capitalize on the tag by promoting apparel under that name.

If Colón himself wants to wear it, he’ll have to order extra large or larger. He’s put on more than 100 pounds since winning the American League’s Cy Young Award while pitching for the Angels in 2005. Colon has also played for the Indians, White Sox (twice), Red Sox, Yankees, Athletics, Mets, Braves, Twins, and Rangers in addition to the Expos (now the Washington Nationals).

He was wearing a Mets uniform in 2015 when he became the oldest player (age 42) to hit his first major-league home run. Colón always swung hard – just in case he made contact.

Colón credited his success as a pitcher to picking fruit and coffee beans with his father while growing up in the Dominican town of Altamira. He said all that picking enabled him to build powerful muscles in his right arm.

He proved the point in 1997, when he threw a no-hitter for the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons at Sahlen Field, now the temporary home of the pandemic-era Toronto Blue Jays.

Colón later posted consecutive 200-strikeout seasons for Cleveland, thus becoming the first Indian to do that since Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

During the colorful career that followed, Colón was injured (partially torn rotator cuff), suspended (steroids use), and placed on the restricted list (left Boston in mid-September to handle personal problems in the Dominican).

An All-Star in 1998, 2005, 2013, and 2016, Colón was a solid starter in three different decades. On August 24, 2017, at age 44, he became the oldest American League pitcher to throw a complete game since Nolan Ryan, the career strikeout king, in 1992. During his long tenure in the AL, he led the league in wins (2005). Eight years later, he led both leagues in shutouts.

He still throws four pitches, including a two-seam and four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup. Because he doesn’t have the same zip on his heater, Colón counts on good control.

Bartolo last pitched in the majors for the Texas Rangers. Credit: Latino Sports

Colón’s top salary was $12.5 million, which the Atlanta Braves paid to steal him from the arch-rival New York Mets on Nov. 17, 2016. But the theft blew up in their faces when the ancient pitcher reported to spring training out of shape.

Even though the Braves then trained in the shadow of Cinderella’s castle, the 44-year-old Colón never found a glass slipper that fit. He pitched poorly during spring training and was worse during the season, posting a 2-8 record and 8.14 ERA in 13 sloppy starts. The overly-patient Braves, still believing their investment would pay dividends, waited three months to release him.

Amazingly, the Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers both take their chances with him afterward.
While with the Rangers in 2018, he passed Juan Marichal for the most wins by a Dominican and Dennis Martinez for most wins by a Latino.

A North Jersey resident who lives in the same town (Clifton) as former Mets PR director Jay Horwitz, Colón hopes to convince some big-league team to snatch him from obscurity again.

Julio Franco, another Dominican who defies his birth certificate, shares the same pipe-dream.

 

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