Braves see age-defying Bartolo Colon as example for young pitchers

Bartolo Colon's 3.66 ERA as a 40-something trails only three Hall of Famers and Roger Clemens among those with more than 700 innings pitched.
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OXON HILL, MD. — Bartolo Colon is entering his 20th MLB season and is just 10 wins behind Juan Marichal for the record for victories by a Dominican pitchers. Longevity — as much as levity — has been the 43-year-old's biggest weapon.

Joining the Braves, his ninth team, Colon has been in the majors so long that 25 of his new teammates on the 40-man roster were in elementary school when he made his 1997 debut.

“There are guys that have never known the major leagues without Bartolo Colon in it,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said Wednesday at MLB's Winter Meetings. “He's been there so long. Their entire existence has had (him) in the major leagues. He brings instant credibility to a situation.”

The Braves are hoping Colon brings more than credibility.

They are looking for him to continue an implausible run as he's thrown 202 1/3, 194 2/3 and 191 2/3 innings the past three seasons. Colon's 779 innings into his 40s are 16th most in MLB history and the most since Jamie Moyer, who threw 1,551 1/3 from 2003-12 at ages 40-49.

His new teammate, 42-year-old R.A. Dickey, has thrown 384 innings since hitting 40, 39th all time.

“A guy like that, the longevity, (Colon)'s doing something right and he knows how to do it,” Snitker said. “That's something we haven't had.”

Colon's run includes a 3.66 ERA, trailing only four Hall of Famers in Cy Young (2.10), Hoyt Wilhelm (2.68), Nolan Ryan (2.86) and Gaylord Perry (3.62), along with Roger Clemens (3.28), among 40-somethings with 700-plus innings.

He went 15-8 last season with the Mets, posting a 3.43 ERA along with 128 strikeouts and 32 walks and made his fourth All-Star team. The Braves would certainly welcome that level of production, and his eating up innings that can continue to help them allow more time for heralded young arms to develop, but Colon's worth goes beyond that.

The expectation is that Colon can also have an impact on the number of young Latin pitchers — there are five on the 40-man — the oldest of whom are 26 in Jose Ramirez and Arodyz Vizcaino.

“I think we can only add so much (as coaches), but that peer that's been through the wars and have experienced what these guys are going to I think will be invaluable to these young guys,” Snitker said.

Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His books, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners.' are now available.