Bartolo Colon is really big in Minnesota. Think Paul-Bunyan-just-ate-his-ox big. Like 4-1-in-August big.
And Calvin Klein just signed him to a long-term modeling deal. Then he landed the lead in a remake of “Spartacus.” And his boy band just went platinum.
But, really, that first part is true. Warning: Time to put the restrictor plate on your gag reflex here. The alleged 44-year-old who eventually made Braves fans grind their teeth down to the roots whenever he took the mound has helped pitch the Twins back into postseason contention.
It’s the kind of development that reinforces the notion that general managing is as much about whimsy as it is metrics. There was not a single shred of evidence to suggest that Colon had so much as another victory left in his bandolier when the Braves released him in July. And it was an obvious nothing-left-to-lose move when the Twins picked him up days later on the cheap, like a garage sale love seat.
The Braves, responsible for all Colon’s $12.5 million deal this year, caught it in the teeth. The Twins, paying him the pro-rated league minimum, caught some static electricity – simply can’t call it lightning – in a bottle.
When Colon arrived at his 10th team in 20 years, the initial result was predictable. He went four innings and was knocked out by the Yankees. The Twins lost all three of his July starts. He said he considered retirement. But Colon bravely fought off the urge to leave all that meal money on the table.
In August, pitching to a 3.21 ERA, Colon has won four of his five starts. He became the oldest pitcher to throw a complete game in seven years with one start. With another he was the oldest to put up seven scoreless innings since 1994. This was the same Colon who in 14 starts for the Braves went 2-8 with an 8.14 ERA, and who gave up 30 runs in 15 innings in his final four starts for the team.
Where his 87-mph fastball was a delicacy for Braves opponents, he is now baffling ‘em with the Twins. His guile and his command are back, the moving company having lost that package on his relo to Atlanta.
This was Twins manager Paul Molitor after one of Colon’s recent outings: “He was in command. You could tell by their swings. The ball running in on their hands on the back-door sinker, and mixing in the change and the breaking ball. He has just had a really good feel lately of how to make pitches and what guys might be looking for and how to counter that.”
That was supposed to be Brian Sniter saying that. These were supposed to be the Braves highlights, an amusement during another late summer in which joy is in short supply.
Colon is someone else’s ageless wonder now. Minnesota’s marvel is Atlanta’s angst.
How long can this last? Maybe not another week. But it just seems that one way or another this guy is meant to make you crazy. Be it flashbacks to his New Coke-like impact on the Braves. Or the prospect of Big Sexy taunting you from afar in some 2017 playoff game.