MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

On a night youth is served, old man prevails

Colon, 43, limits Brewers to one run over seven innings

On a night youth is served, old man prevails

MILWAUKEE -- While youth was being served and the future was being planned through the 2016 MLB Draft on Thursday night, the New York Mets were putting their present in the hands of a 43-year-old man.

A 285-pound 43-year-old man, to be precise. But as usual, Bartolo Colon was up to the task.

Forget the age. Forget the poundage. The man can still pitch. He shouldn't pose for swimming suit ads, but he can still pitch.

Thanks in large part to Colon's efforts, the Mets prevailed against the Milwaukee Brewers, 5-2, in the opener of a four-game series at Miller Park. This was the 223rd victory of Colon's remarkable career. More to the point for the 2016 Mets, over his last four starts, he has given up just five earned runs, giving him an earned-run average of 1.80 over that period. For the season he is 5-3 with a 3.08 ERA.

Colon limited the Brewers to one run over seven innings. He struck out only two, but he walked no one. That came as no surprise, since he has issued only 13 walks in 73 innings this season.

Colon's work is impressive, apparently to everyone but Colon himself.

"I've been doing the same stuff since the season began," Colon said through an interpreter. "I just think sometimes you go through periods where it all works out. Sometimes, you have bad periods and good periods, and right now, I'm going through a good one."

Despite that modest appraisal, in a starting rotation filled with young flamethrowers, Colon stands out not only for his age or his body type but for the consistency of his approach and his work.

He is a source of stability. His value probably cannot be overstated.

"He's irreplaceable, to be honest," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "He just takes the ball every five days. Nothing shakes him up. I know the young guys will all be there like that one day. I don't know if they'll all play 19 years.

"But this guy's a pro. To have him in that rotation just really settles things down. He'll take the ball, he's good enough to know that there are going to be nights when he won't be sharp, but the bullpen's tired, and he'll stay out there, because he knows that's what the team needs. Those kinds of guys, they're hard to find."

Amid the Draft, a celebration of youthful talent and baseball's future, here was the hardy perennial of a pitcher. Colon has been performing at a high level for a long time. There is no mystery to what he does. But there is a lot of precision and baseball intelligence involved.

The opposition sees it, respects it and frequently can't do anything about it. "Obviously, when you're 43, you're using your experience to your advantage," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "I also think he's got a very simple approach to what he does.

"He's really good with the fastball, he's really good at controlling the movement on the fastball. He changes speeds on the fastball, but he throws, almost as much as any pitcher in the big leagues, exclusively fastballs.

"It's a very simple approach, but he's very good at it. It's what made him effective, and I think it's a great lesson for all pitchers. He's pitching with one pitch. He changes that one pitch a little bit, but he's largely pitching with one pitch."

True enough. With the exception of the occasional slider or changeup, Colon threw fastballs; at varying speeds to varying locations, the vast majority of them for plausible strikes.

Only one of his pitches was hit with particular force. That came in the seventh when Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a former Met, doubled to the wall in right.

And, ample belly or not, Colon fielded his position. He twice initiated double plays on bouncers back to the mound. In the third he played a successful defensive role in all three outs, including hustling over to cover first on a grounder hit wide of first baseman James Loney.

Just glancing at Colon, his sustained run of success seems improbable. But it's too late for just a glance. An examination of his record indicates that his success is nothing less than likely.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.