MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor was just trying to make small talk with his newest starting pitcher as Bartolo Colon showed up at Target Field on Monday and had a brief workout.
Unlike most occasions with new players, Molitor has a background with Colon. In fact, Molitor’s final major league game was on Sept. 27, 1998, against the Cleveland Indians with Colon on the mound. Molitor was 1-for-3 that day against the right-hander and 2-for-8 all-time.
As Colon prepares to start Tuesday against the New York Yankees in his Twins debut, he and Molitor shared some memories.
“We reminisced a little bit about how many teams he’s played for,” Molitor said. “I asked him if he remembered facing me. He said, ‘Yeah, I broke three of your bats.’ I said, ‘I don’t remember that part of the story, but thank you.’ ‘Yeah, two-seamer, right on your hands.’ I trust his memory more than mine.”
Such is the career and stories of Colon, 44.
Colon (2-8, 8.14 ERA) will start Tuesday against 25-year-old Yankees right-hander Luis Cessa (0-3, 4.18).
Colon is set to appear for a 10th different major league team. His opponent is one of his former clubs. Colon pitched one season for the Yankees, going 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 2011.
“I know it kind of defies logic,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Colon still pitching at age 44. “But Bartolo’s mechanics have always been pretty simple. His control has been really good. He uses more pitches now than he did before. He uses his breaking ball and changeup more now than he did before. I think in this day that if anyone is pitching at 44, you’re surprised. But if you were to say someone is, I’m not surprised it’s Bartolo.”
Minnesota is hoping Colon can just add a bit of stability to a rotation that has featured a revolving door behind All-Star Ervin Santana, emerging right-hander Jose Berrios and rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia.
Colon was signed to a minor league contract on July 7 after being released by the Atlanta Braves following a disappointing 13-game run this season. Colon made one minor league appearance, allowing four runs on four hits and two walks in 3 2/3 innings for Triple-A Rochester on Thursday, before the Twins decided to give the right-hander a shot in their rotation.
Colon, who is 6-7 with a 5.69 ERA all-time against the Yankees, will become the oldest starter ever for Minnesota.
“He knows how to pitch,” Santana told the St. Paul Pioneer Press of his former Los Angeles Angels teammate and new Twins teammate. “He knows how to throw strikes. He doesn’t go out there trying to walk everybody. He’s just got an idea from all the years he’s been pitching. He will give our team a chance to win every time.”
In his last major league start, Colon surrendered six runs on eight hits and three walks in four innings for Atlanta in a 7-4 loss at San Diego on June 28.
Facing New York’s potent lineup, the Twins have expectations a bit in check.
“I think anybody that you throw out there to start a game for you, you think of a chance each and every time that you’re going to get a quality start,” Molitor said. “He hasn’t pitched a lot the last, roughly, three weeks other than his Rochester outing. But I do think if he’s doing his thing that he can possibly get through five or six innings. It’s just a matter of him being able to get enough outs and keep the score down, and hopefully he’s got a chance to put himself into position to help us win and maybe get one for himself.”
The Yankees, meanwhile, are trying to get their offense going after the All-Star break. They have scored 13 runs in five games, losing three times. New York dropped the opener of the three-game series in Minnesota 4-2 on Monday.
“You wonder if during the break, some guys kind of got out of rhythm a little bit,” Girardi said after the Monday loss. “The only way to get back into rhythm is to keep playing. Even though we only scored two runs, I thought we swung the bat a lot better than that tonight.”
Like Colon, Cessa will be officially recalled before Tuesday’s game. He has been at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre since the All-Star break and will be on regular rest for the start.
In his three major league starts this season, Cessa is 0-3 with a 5.93 ERA. He has allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings against the Twins in his career.