LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Bartolo Colon threw 80 pitches in just 3 2/3 innings, gave up eight hits and six earned runs in a 7-5 loss to the Tigers and saw his ERA climb to 9.20.
Then the oldest active player in baseball said, basically, don’t worry. It’s just practice. And his manager agreed.
“Right now I’m just working on my pitches, working on that kind of stuff,” Colon said through an interpreter. “But I’m ready. I’m ready for the fight.”
Colon often refers to the 162-game season as the fight. He’ll be 44 in April and is entering his 20th season, with his official Braves debut scheduled to come in the season-opening road series against his former team, the Mets.
“I think he’s fine,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I don’t worry about a guy like that. I’m sure he’s trying to hit location and paint (corners) and all that, and sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.”
Snitker also noted that were it not for a one-out bad-hop single past second baseman Brandon Phillips for the second hit of the four-run second inning, the Braves could have turned an inning-ending double play, “and he gets out of the inning and we’re all talking about how great he did, really.”
In his past two starts, Colon has been charged with 16 hits, 11 earned runs and four walks in 6 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.
“I’m not too worried about the results out there, as far as the hits and runs,” said Colon, who saw six of the first seven Tigers reach base in the second inning on four hits, a walk and an error by shortstop Chase d’Arnaud. “The most important thing is that I feel well and I feel healthy and I feel good.”
His best spring start was March 8 against the Phillies, when he gave up one hit, one run and two walks with three strikeouts in three innings. Colon figured to be up to five or six innings by now, but the usually efficient right-hander ran up such a high pitch count early Saturday that he didn’t complete four.
“He went 80 pitches, that’s the thing,” Snitker said, smiling as he related what he’d said jokingly to pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. “I told Chuck, he’s got two more starts and we’ll have him up to 120 before (spring training ends).”
He pitched a perfect third inning with two strikeouts before giving up a final run in the fourth on a pair of singles and an RBI double by Nicholas Castellanos that ended Colon’s outing. He has allowed 22 hits, 15 runs and six walks with nine strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings over four starts, and will have two more Grapefruit League starts before the regular season.
Snitker said Colon wouldn’t make his next start until next Sunday (March 26). That would put him on schedule to start a March 31 exhibition game against the Yankees at SunTrust Park, then the second game in New York against the Mets on April 5, provided he stays on regular rest.
“Right now I’m just taking this time to work on the things that I want to work on,” Colon said. “So until the lights in the big new stadium come on, I’m not too worried about the results.”