Three up, three down: Bartolo Colon is back, Bryan Price paid the price for Reds’ failures
Bart Man: The roly-poly Bartolo Colon might be baseball’s most joyful sight, guiding 88-mph fastballs to the corners of the strike zone and frustrating opposing batters. Colon’s career appeared done last year, when no one pitched more innings and had a higher ERA than his 6.48. But he promised his late mother he would pitch until he turned 45, and he wanted to aim for the five victories needed to tie Dennis Martinez for most wins by a Latin American pitcher. So there was Colon last Sunday, taking a perfect game into the eighth inning against the defending World Series champion Astros. Colon, born in 1973, is older than six major league teams: the Blue Jays and Mariners (1977), the Marlins and Rockies (1993) and the Diamondbacks and Rays (1998).
Homecoming king: The Indians’ Francisco Lindor put an exclamation point on the first real home game of his career, hitting a home run in his native Puerto Rico, almost levitating as he rounded the bases, then taking a curtain call from the dugout and later a bow from shortstop. The island exploded with joy, an emotion in short supply recently. The league pulled off a minor miracle by staging a series between the Indians and Twins in San Juan, seven months after Hurricane Maria badly damaged the stadium there. The recovery has been so achingly slow and uneven that, on the second day of the series, the entire island was blacked out for a time.
Z is for Zimmerman: Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals hit two home runs Wednesday, a welcome sign for the man who has hit the most home runs in the history of the franchise, dating to its inception in Montreal. Zimmerman, 33, the Nationals’ cleanup batter, entered play that day batting .121, after a spring in which the Nationals limited him to two at-bats, ostensibly to protect him from injury. The two home runs gave Zimmerman 254, making him the career leader in homers hit by a player whose last name starts with Z. Former Dodger Todd Zeile had 253. The career leader for the letter U? That would be the Angels’ Justin Upton with 260, followed by the Dodgers’ Chase Utley with 259.
Spring matters: Spring training is twice as long as it needs to be, except that no one has invented a better way to build up pitchers for the demands of the regular season. The Phillies’ Jake Arrieta signed March 11, and he’s been fine. But the Twins’ Lance Lynn signed March 12, and he’s walked 15 batters in 15 innings, with a 6.00 ERA. The Orioles’ Alex Cobb signed March 21, and he’s given up 20 hits in seven innings, with a 15.43 ERA. The Cardinals’ Greg Holland signed March 31 — two days after opening day — and he’s walked eight in 3 1/3 innings, with an 8.10 ERA. Memo to the Dodgers’ research and development department: Please devise a way to get pitchers ready in three weeks, so we can start spring training March 1.
Red scapegoat: As Bryan Price neared the end of his fourth season as Reds manager last September, general manager Dick Williams invited him back for 2018. After the Reds started 3-15, Williams fired Price. That reflects poorly on Williams, an executive in the Reds’ front office for the entirety of Price’s tenure. As the old saying goes, you can’t fire the players, but there should be nothing Williams knows about Price now that he did not know last September. Bottom line: The Reds can’t pitch, again. That’s on Williams, the son of one of the Reds’ owners. On the race to replace Price: Jim Riggleman is the interim manager, hometown hero Barry Larkin has stumped for the job and former Red Sox manager John Farrell is a Reds scout.
Rain daze: Rain, snow and cold forced the postponement of three of the Cubs’ first four games last week. The league tied its record for first-month postponements with two weeks to go in April, and the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo had an idea: Start the season a couple weeks later. But if fewer games meant pay cuts, he wasn’t quite sure the players would embrace his plan. “Once you start taking money from guys, that’s where it’s going to be a little more dicey,” he told ESPN 1000 in Chicago. That goes for the owners too, since they would lose ticket sales and broadcast revenue. Knock 10 games off the schedule, and that would cost Mike Trout $2 million.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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