Bartolo Colón

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Bartolo Colón
(Bart; Big Sexy)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 11", Weight 285 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

"Before every pitch, look the batter in the eye and try to intimidate him, because he’s doing exactly the same thing to you." - Bartolo Colón

“He drives one! Deep left field! Back goes Upton! Back near the wall! It’s outta here! Bartolo has done it! The impossible has happened!” - Gary Cohen, New York Mets play-by-play man, marking the occasion of Bartolo's first big league home run against the San Diego Padres, May 7, 2016

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If a nuclear bomb were to drop tomorrow, one could count on the survival of cockroaches, Aerosmith and "Big Sexy" Bartolo Colón, ready to take the ball every fifth day. He debuted a rail thin starting pitcher in 1997 with the Cleveland Indians and was last spotted in the bigs as a lovable, roly poly moundsman with the Texas Rangers in 2018. Bartolo, signing with the Acereros de Monclova of the Mexican League in 2020 in an effort to try and make it back, is a four-time MLB All-Star, making appearances during each of the three decades (and counting?) of his playing career. He won the Cy Young Award in 2005 and, to date, is the last man to suit up who had played for the late Montreal Expos.

Big Bart arrived in professional ball in 1993, signing with the Cleveland Indians. He moved quickly through the Tribe chain. In 1995, he was the Carolina League Pitcher of the Year and the Indians Minor League Player of the Year (commonly referred to as the Lou Boudreau Award]]). Pitching with the Kinston Indians, he finished second in the league in pitcher wins (13) and ERA (1.96) while striking out 152 men to lead the league. Remarkably, this numbers were all tallied by August 1, when he was shut down with a bruised elbow. In 1997, with the Triple A Buffalo Bisons, Colón became the only man in Bisons history to throw a no-hitter at the club's Sahlen Field. Blessed with a tremendous fastball, he got the call to the majors that season, allowing four runs in a no decision against the Anaheim Angels on April 4. The waters were choppy his first season; he made 19 appearances (17 starts) with only a 4-7 record and 5.65 ERA, watching from the sidelines as the Indians came up a game short of their first World Series title in 49 years.

From humble big league beginnings did young Bartolo rise in 1998. It was his first All-Star season, with a 14-9 record and 3.71 ERA in 31 starts, and his first of eight consecutive seasons with double digits in victories. Bart chipped in further with six complete games, 158 strikeouts and his first two big league shutouts. The first, remarkably, came a year to the day after his big league debut against the very same Anaheim Angels. Bart struck out 10, scattered four hits, and won 11-0. On June 26th, in an interleague game against the Houston Astros, he had an epic confrontation with Ricky Gutierrez, which lasted 20 pitches before he managed to strike out Gutierrez swinging. It was the longest at bat ever recorded until then, and remained the longest until topped by a 21-pitch battle between Brandon Belt and Jaime Barria on April 22, 2018. Remarkably, as we well know, Bartolo was still active at the time. He would go on to be the winning pitcher in the All-Star Game, despite allowing three earned runs (including a home run to the great Barry Bonds) in his lone inning of work. He also pitched in the postseason for the first time, picking up a win over the otherwise unbeatable New York Yankees with a complete game four-hitter in Game 3 of the ALCS on October 9th.

The good times rolled for Bartolo in 1999. Though he was not rewarded with a trip to another All-Star Game, he did finish 18-5, 3.95 with 161 strikeouts in 32 starts, making it back to back 200 innings seasons. He dipped below in 2000 with a mere 188 frames, finishing 15-8 with a 3.88 ERA, but he exceed 200 strikeouts, reaching a career high 212 in 30 starts. On September 18, Big Bart tossed a one-hitter against the vaunted New York Yankees, allowing only an eighth inning single to Luis Polonia while striking out 13 in a 2-0 victory at Yankee Stadium. In 2001, Bartolo became the first Tribe hurler since Gaylord Perry to log back to back 200 strikeout seasons, mowing down 201 poor souls en route to a 14-12, 4.09 season in 34 starts and 222 1/3 innings. Interestingly enough, these would be Colón's only 200 strikeout seasons, as he would rely more on finesse and guile as he continued along.

In 2002, Colón put together a truly fine season. He started the year with a 10-4 record, 2.55 ERA and 4 shutouts in 16 starts with the Indians. With the Montreal Expos actually in the hunt for a postseason spot for the first time in nearly a decade, GM Omar Minaya brought Bartolo aboard for the pennant push, dealing Lee Stevens and three prospects to Cleveland to seal the deal. Bart was an identical 10-4 in 17 starts with a 3.31 ERA, becoming just the second post-1900 player, after Hank Borowy during World War II in 1945, to win 10 games for two teams in one season. Combined, he was 20-8 with a 2.93 ERA and eight complete games in 233 1/3 innings and 33 starts. Unfortunately, the Expos fell short of a wild card spot. Even more unfortunately, the club was being operated by Major League Baseball, meaning Colón would not be allowed to stick around, heading to the Chicago White Sox for three players who did not contribute much over the long-term (Orlando Hernandez, Jeff Liefer and Rocky Biddle). This was in marked contrast to the haul Montreal got for him. While Lee Stevens was on the way out, you make be asking yourself 'what became of those three prospects which headed to Cleveland?' Well, first there was Brandon Phillips, a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove second baseman. Second, there was "Handsome Grady Sizemore, a three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove outfielder for the Tribe. And lastly, there was merely Cliff Lee, a four-time All-Star who won the Cy Young Award in 2008. Remarkably, to date, Bart outlasted all but Phillips in the bigs, and Phillips merely has bested him by six days.

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Moving right along, it was time for Bartolo to anchor a White Sox rotation, going 15-13, 3.87 while leading the American League with 9 complete games in a career high 242 innings. Having carried such an innings load, it was a fortuitous time to become a free agent and he signed on the dotted line with the Anaheim Angels for the 2004 season. His ERA was a tad bloated, at 5.01, but he managed to stick around long enough in the box to win 18 games (18-12) with 158 strikeouts in 34 starts and 222 1/3 innings. The following season, he had a career year for the re-christened Los Angeles Angels, winning the Cy Young Award on the strength of a 21-8, 3.48 record. He became the first Angels hurler to earn the honor since Dean Chance way the heck back in 1964, when there was only one award given. Bartolo fared better at the All-Star Game, allowing a hit in one scoreless inning, and was counted on in the postseason as the Angels met the New York Yankees in the ALDS. He allowed four runs in a Game 1 loss at home, then, in the clinching Game 5, disaster struck. Colón was only able to go one inning before suffering a partially torn rotator cuff. The next four seasons would be rough. He only answered the bell for 10 starts and a 5.11 ERA in 2006, including a four-hit shutout of the Seattle Mariners on July 5, before his season was cut three weeks later. Compared to 2007, '06 was cheery days of yesteryear, as Bart made only 19 starts to an ugly 6.34 ERA He was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA for the Aguilas Cibaeñas in the 2008 Caribbean Series, then saw limited action with the Boston Red Sox (7 starts, 3.92 ERA), drawing a suspension in September when he left the team to head home to the Dominican Republic for personal reasons. In 2009, he was back in Chicago with the Pale Hose, a 12 start affair and a 4.19 ERA. The end of the line appeared to be near for Colón, especially after missing the entirety of 2010 with various nagging injuries and pain in his shoulder and elbow. But he had only just begun to live...

Colón impressed New York Yankees coach Tony Pena during the 2010-11 Dominican League season and was offered an invitation to the team's spring training. He earned a spot in the bullpen and made his first three appearances in relief of a struggling Phil Hughes, doing a solid job. When Hughes was placed on the disabled list on April 15th after three ineffective starts, Colón took his place in the starting rotation. His remarkable return to form prompted questions about the experimental surgery that was performed on his shoulder and elbow in 2010, particularly rumors that human growth hormone, which is banned, was used as part of the procedure. Surgeon Joseph Purita, who performed the surgery which also involves the use of stem cells, denied that HGH had been used or that there was anything wrong with a procedure that he described as "the future of sports medicine". On May 30th, he pitched his first shutout in almost five years, blanking the Oakland A's, 5-0. Nearly two weeks later, Colón was placed on the disabled list after leaving a start against the Cleveland Indians with a strained right hamstring. He was 5-3, 3.10 at the time. He returned to winning form on July 2nd, beating the New York Mets, 5-2. He finished the year 8-10, 4.00, in 29 games (26 starts), having pitched 164 1/3 innings for the Yankees and making an important contribution to a division title.

After the season, it was clear that the Yankees, while happy that Colón and fellow veteran Freddy Garcia had bailed them out in 2011, were looking to build a younger and more reliable starting rotation for the future. As a result, they did not seriously pursue re-signing Bartolo, and on January 15, 2012, he moved to the Oakland Athletics on a one-year deal worth $2 million. He won his first game in Tokyo, Japan, on March 29th, giving up only a run on 3 hits in 8 innings against the Seattle Mariners. On April 17th, he threw 38 straight strikes in a start against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; it was the most since pitch data began to be systematically recorded in 1988, shattering the previous record of 30 held by Tim Wakefield. He was having a very solid season for the A's, going 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts, when, on August 22nd, he was suspended for 50 games by MLB, having tested positive for the banned substance testosterone. His colleague from across the Bay, the San Francisco Giants' Melky Cabrera, had been busted for using the same substance only eight days earlier. Colón apologized to fans and recognized his guilt, stating: "I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the Joint Drug Program."

Colon played for the Aguilas Cibaenas in the Dominican Winter League in the 2012-13 offseason, In his second start on October 28th, he was struck in the mouth by a batted ball and had to be hospitalized, although he did not suffer a fracture or any broken teeth. On November 3rd, the A's announced they had signed him again for 2013. The A's confidence in the veteran was well-placed, as he was their best starter during the early stages of the season. He was named the AL's Pitcher of the Month for June when he went 5-0, 1.75. He was no stranger to the award, having won it three times previously, although the last instance had been in his Cy Young season in 2005. He was then named to the All-Star team, also a first since his Cy Young season. Colón's name was tied up in the Biogenesis Laboratories scandal early in the 2013 season, but he did not receive a suspension as it could not be determined that he had committed an additional offense to the one for which he had been punished in 2012. He finished the year with a record of 18-6, 2.65, having pitched 190 1/3 innings as the division-winning Athletics' ace. He started the opening game of the ALDS against the Detroit Tigers on October 4th and gave up 3 runs in 6 innings to be saddled with the 3-2 loss. When the decisive Game 5 came around, A's manager Bob Melvin tagged rookie Sonny Gray to make the start, which he lost to Justin Verlander.

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A free agent after the 2013 season, Colón cashed in with a two-year deal with the New York Mets worth $20 million on December 11th, a rather hefty sum for a 41-year-old. On August 8, 2014, he recorded the 200th win of his career when he beat the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4. He left with a 5-1 lead after 8 innings, but relievers Dana Eveland and Jenrry Mejia made things interesting by allowing 3 runs in the 9th. He became the third active pitcher to the milestone, after Tim Hudson and CC Sabathia. He finished the year at 15-13, 4.09 in 31 starts, pitching over 200 innings for the 8th time. Seemingly oblivious to Father Time, he began 2015 by rolling off four straight wins in his first four starts. A 7-4 win against the Phillies on May 10th made him the first six-game winner in the majors. When Bruce Chen announced his retirement on May 18th, he became the last former member of the Montreal Expos to be still active in the major leagues. On May 31st, he became the first eight-game winner in the NL with a 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins. He also cracked an RBI double in the game, sweet payback after his curious hitting style, in which he seems to swing for the fences on every pitch and almost screws himself into the batter's box as a result, usually losing his helmet in the process, had become an Internet meme. On June 18th, he lost a game against R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays. It was the first match-up of starting pitchers over 40 since August 15, 2008, when Greg Maddux had faced Jamie Moyer. He went though a tough stretch starting with that game until August 21st, with a 1-7 record over a period of 11 starts. He turned things around again, putting together a 31-inning scoreless string from August 26-September 10, falling just short of the Mets team record held by... R.A. Dickey. It was also the longest such streak by a player 42 or older, a record previously held by Cy Young, although his longevity put him in a territory which few pitchers had ever reached. He finished the season 14-13, 4.16 in 33 starts and 194 2/3 innings. In the postseason, he was used as a reliever as the Mets went with a quartet of young starters. He put up a 4.50 ERA in 3 games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, then was credited with a win in his only appearance against the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. He was charged with the loss in Game 1 of the World Series when he entered in the 12th inning against the Kansas City Royals and gave up an unearned run in the bottom of the 14th. He pitched twice more in the Series, giving up a hit in one more inning. On December 16th, he re-signed with the Mets for $7.25 million.

On May 7, 2016, Bartolo set a major league record by becoming the oldest player to hit his first career home run. He connected off James Shields of the San Diego Padres for a two-run blast at Petco Park, three weeks shy of his 43rd birthday. The previous record holder had been Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, whose first homer had come shortly after he had turned 40. He also won the game, 6-3. On August 15th, he drew his first walk in in 282 career plate appearances, quite a feat for a player known to swing away with all his might on any pitch anywhere near the plate; it was of course another record, for most plate appearances before drawing a first walk. In addition to his hitting feats, Colón was having a nice season on the mound too, being selected to take part in his fourth All-Star Game after going 7-4, 3.28 in the first half. For the third straight season, he ended up the top winner on the Mets' staff, at 15-8, 3.43, helping them to return to the postseason as a wild card. On October 1, he became one of 47 men to make 500 big league starts.

On November 11, 2016, he signed a one-year contract estimated at $12.5 million with the Atlanta Braves, becoming the second 40-something starting pitcher to sign with the team in two days, after old pal R.A. Dickey. The Braves obviously wanted to add some experience to what had been a very young staff the previous year as they headed to a new ballpark for 2017. His debut came in his old home park, Citi Field, on April 5th, 20 years and one day after his big league debut. He was as good as ever, tossing two-hit ball for 6 innings as the Braves defeated the Mets, 3-1, in 12 innings. On June 29th, the Braves handed him his unconditional release. He had gone 2-8 with a National League worst 8.14 ERA in 13 starts. The Mets were interested in having him back, but it was with the Minnesota Twins that he signed a minor league contract on July 7th and, on July 18th, he made his first start for his new team, facing the New York Yankees. He pitched well until breaking down in the 5th and was eventually tagged with a 6-3 loss. His first few outings with the Twins were a bit rough, but he showed flashes of his old self in August. On August 4th, he pitched a complete game to defeat the Texas Rangers, 8-4, and, on August 9th, he pitched 7 scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. He went 5-6, 5.18 in 15 games for the Twins to finish the year at 7-14, 6.48. He would likely have made a start in the Division Series had the Twins been able to make it past the Yankees in anything ever, falling this time in the Wild Card Game.

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On February 4, 2018, the Texas Rangers announced they had signed Colón to a minor league contract. He made the team out of spring training as the fifth starter, although he was by no means guaranteed to keep that spot. Still, he made that possibility more likely with an excellent first start on April 2nd, when he limited the Oakland Athletics to one run in six innings, a solo homer by Matt Chapman. He was not involved in the decision as Texas eventually lost, 3-1. It was initially supposed to be a one-off start, as Martin Perez was scheduled to come off the disabled list imminently, but the fact that his performance had been by far, the best among the team's five starters gave management reason to re-think that premise. He was kept in an otherwise undefined bullpen role while serving as insurance in case a starter were injured. When he made his next start, on April 15th, it was an absolute gem: facing the defending World Champions, the Houston Astros, he set down the first 21 batters he faced in order before allowing a run in the 8th on a walk, a double and a sacrifice fly. Unfortunately, his opponent that day, Justin Verlander, was almost as good, allowing just one hit - a solo homer by Robinson Chirinos - in 8 innings, and Colón ended up with a no-decision as Texas, 3-1, in 10 innings. On April 28th, he recorded a win for his 11th different team when he defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 7-4. That tied a record he shared with three other pitching nomads: LaTroy Hawkins, Mike Morgan and Ron Villone. On June 6th, he recorded the 243rd victory of his career, tying Juan Marichal for most by a pitcher from the Dominican Republic. He reached another milestone on June 12th when he recorded his 2,500th career strikeout. On June 30th, he recorded his 245th win, tying Dennis Martinez for most by a pitcher from Latin America. It took a while, but he passed Martinez and became the sole record holder when he defeated the Seattle Mariners, 11-4, on August 7th. There was one more milestone he was shooting for, passing Marichal for most total innings pitched but he needed to throw 61 1/3 more to achieve that, with the season - and possibly his career - winding down. He ended the year at 7-12, 5.78 in 28 games, making his final appearance on September 22nd. He ended the year with 3,461 2/3 innings, still a few shy of Marichal's 3,507.

Colón did not play in the major or minor leagues in 2019, after appearing briefly and ineffectually in winter ball, although he did not officially retire. He was planning to pitch in the Mexican League in 2020 until the coronavirus pandemic intervened, and told reporters he was available to pitch in the majors if a team wanted an old pitcher, adding that his preference would be to return to the New York Mets if they showed any interest. In addition to being the last former Expo to have played in the majors, he was also the last pitcher from the 20th century to be active, and in the unlikely event a team was ready to give him one more shot, would become the sole four-decade player whose career started in the 1990s. Only Adrian Beltre, who was a teammate on the Rangers in 2018, beat him in term of longevity among players from the 1990s, and only by a week, as his final appearance was on September 30, 2018.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 1995 Pitcher of the Year Carolina League Kinston Indians
  • 4-time AL All-Star (1998, 2005, 2013 & 2016)
  • AL Cy Young Award Winner (2005)
  • AL Wins Leader (2005)
  • AL Complete Games Leader (2003)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (2013)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 9 (1999, 2000, 2002-2005, 2013, 2014 & 2016)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (2002 & 2005)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 8 (1998, 1999, 2001-2005 & 2014)
  • 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 2 (2000 & 2001)


AL Cy Young Award
2004 2005 2006
Johan Santana Bartolo Colon Johan Santana

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ted Berg: "Infielder's retirement leaves Bartolo Colon as the last former Expo in MLB", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, March 4, 2016. [1]
  • Rhett Bollinger: "Bartolo receives standing O, plans 2018 return", mlb.com, October 1, 2017. [2]
  • Mark Bowman: "Colon eager to start new season with Braves: 43-year-old pitcher looking to make history in Atlanta", mlb.com, February 16, 2017. [3]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Bart Land: The Last Pitcher Show?", mlb.com, February 10, 2017. [4]
  • Charles Curtis and Ted Berg: "21 weird and true facts about Bartolo Colon on his 45th birthday", "For the Win!", mlb.com, May 24, 2018. [5]
  • Matt Kelly: "Does this feat match Joe D.'s famous hit streak? On this day in 2012, Bartolo Colon threw nothing but strikes", mlb.com, April 17, 2020. [6]
  • Matt Monagan: "The Life of Bartolo Colon: A True or False Quiz", "Cut4", mlb.com, January 16, 2018. [7]
  • Matt Monagan: "Bartolo wants back in bigs, and has a team in mind: Bartyolo, amiright?", mlb.com, May 18, 2020. [8]
  • Terence Moore: "Colon proving age doesn't matter: Mets pitcher has skills, durability that belie his 42 years", mlb.com, December 20, 2015. [9]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Bartolo Colon's Mets chapter almost done - but they'll never forget him", USA Today Sports, July 19, 2015. [10]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Appreciation: Bartolo Colon leaves behind a legion of adoring fans", USA Today Sports, June 29, 2017. [11]

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