Workhorse Colome thriving as Rays closer

Workhorse Colome thriving as Rays closer

PHOENIX -- Rays closer Alex Colome could be found sitting comfortably on a black folding chair in front of his locker in the visiting clubhouse Tuesday afternoon at Chase Field and not on a plane out of Arizona like his manager joked less than 24 hours earlier.

On Monday night, Colome earned his fourth save in four days and 16th save in 16 tries this season. He's tied a Rays club record for consecutive saves to begin a season and continues to build a case to represent Tampa Bay next month at the All-Star Game in San Diego.

Rays manager Kevin Cash suggested that "maybe we should fly [Colome] out just so I can't use him [Tuesday]."

Cash was kidding. He took a more serious tone Tuesday.

"The resiliency is great that he has, but the way he's kind of evolved into a pitcher, a strike-thrower and the mentality," Cash said. "He's coming in, not looking to miss bats. He comes in saying, 'Here it is, hit it.' His stuff is so good that he does miss bats."

Colome's five-out save

On Friday, Colome threw 34 pitches in 1 2/3 innings against the Twins and eight pitches to get a one-out save Saturday. He threw nine pitches in the ninth for the save Sunday and 11 against the D-backs on Monday.

The right-hander also had four saves during a span of five days last month. The pitcher says he enjoys the heavy workload and the Rays are being careful not to overuse him.

The fact that Colome remains in this position is a testament to his hard work and dedication. The right-hander became the closer after Brad Boxberger, who led the American League in saves last season, had adductor surgery during Spring Training. Boxberger returned last week and the plan was to work him back into the closer role, but he injured his oblique and is now out four to six weeks.

"It's been a great experience being the closer," Colome, 27, said in Spanish. "It's a lot of work and a lot of dedication. Through it all and first and foremost, I'm really grateful to God for the blessings I have received."

Colome began his big league career in 2013 as a starter and was transitioned into the bullpen last season. He still made 13 starts for the Rays in 2015, but his path toward a career in the bullpen had been set.

"I really can't say how they saw me in the Minor Leagues as a reliever or a starter because before you get to the big leagues, you don't know what a team has planned for you," Colome said. "They gave me the opportunity as a reliever and they saw how I worked. But what has always been my focus is having faith and show up every day when I was given the chance, whether that's as a starter or a reliever, to show what I can do."

Colome was 18 when he signed with the Rays for $75,000 in 2007 and was the first player from the club's academy in the Dominican Republic to reach the Major Leagues. Colome said he almost signed with the Nationals but the Rays' complex was only 30 minutes from the family home in San Pedro de Macoris, so he chose Tampa Bay. He's never strayed too far from home.

Last winter, he worked on his fastball control and overall command while pitching for the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Republic.

"I was at the point where I just wanted to sign and I wanted an opportunity to show what I can do," Colome said. "I think I was the right age and my maturity level was ready to be a professional. I know millions of dollars are given to 16-year-olds, but I'm not sure they are ready for that. Give a kid who is 18 to 22 years old an opportunity to prove what they can do. The Rays did for me and I'm still taking advantage of the opportunity. I'm ready for this."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com and covered the Rays on Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.