By Ed Coleman
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Bartolo Colon is a modern-day marvel. Looking more like a pitcher you’d probably spot on a mound in a Sunday slow-pitch softball beer league, Colon won 18 games for Oakland last season and finished sixth in the balloting for the AL Cy Young Award.
And what’s particularly amazing is that Colon accomplishes what he does with primarily one pitch –the good old-fashioned fastball.
Colon will turn 41 in May, and his fastball averaged a tick under 90 MPH last season. Everyone else in the top 10 of fastball percentage for 2013 throws harder than Colon, yet he utilizes it 85-90 percent of the time. And that’s because he can do so many things with it, as manager Terry Collins attests.
Colon relies on movement and changing speeds on his fastball. He employs both a four-seamer (90-92 MPH) and a two-seamer (88-90 MPH). He also has a changeup to lefties and a slider, but they are very secondary pitches.
David Wright recently talked about a confrontation that Colon had with Daniel Murphy during a simulated spring-training game. Wright was standing on second base, watching Colon work to Murphy.
What Wright learned most emphatically during that at-bat was this: If you try to guess along with Colon as a hitter, you’ll lose.
Murphy reinforced that point when I asked him about that showdown. Murphy, who loves to talk hitting, was quite impressed.
The overwhelming sense that Murphy came away with was that a hitter really can never be at ease when facing Colon.
And whether or not Colon’s unorthodox portly frame has anything to do with it, Murphy says he hides the ball well, so it’s very hard to pick up coming out of his hand.
Colon went 18-6 with three shutouts last season, along with a career-best 2.65 ERA. He may not duplicate that in 2014, but whether he does or not, Collins hopes that his promising young pitchers watch — and learn.
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