It’s worth following Alex Colome, other call-ups, in season’s final weeks

Alex Colome tossed 6 2/3 shutout innings for the Rays on Monday night.

Kim Klement

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The rest of this Tampa Bay Rays season has become about polishing talent for the future. Attention has shifted from the American League East standings and the ”games behind” column in the race for the AL’s second wild-card spot. It has turned to finding gems within the transactions list, to studying the names promoted and considering where they can go.

Momentum for 2015 can be earned today.

So it was fitting that right-hander Alex Colome — recalled from Triple-A Durham on Monday — was solid against the New York Yankees the same day at Tropicana Field, allowing six hits and striking out four in a career-high 6 2/3 innings during the Rays’ 1-0 victory. This was his fifth major-league start (sixth appearance), and the outing was something that can make manager Joe Maddon and Tampa Bay’s front office consider Colome’s potential for next year.

”The only thing I want is them to give me the ball,” Colome said.

Colome’s performance was a fine encore to what right-hander Nathan Karns showed in his Rays debut in a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays last Friday at Rogers Centre. That night, Karns allowed two hits and struck out eight in seven innings. Maddon said it was a display that exceeded expectations, and he was right.

Watching starts by Karns and Colome represent part of the silver lining in viewing the Rays’ final weeks of 2014. Similar intrigue will come in observing infielder Nick Franklin and left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser, both recalled Monday from Durham as well, whenever their chances arrive. Positive impressions can be formed in these hours.

”He was really good,” Maddon said of Colome. ”We just had Nathan a couple nights ago do the same. Almost repeated it. … (Colome) threw a strike when he had to.”

There were many things to like about Colome’s poise on the mound during his 113-pitch outing. His control was respectable. He was rarely rattled. He was confident. The Rays couldn’t ask for much more.

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This was little surprise, and the numbers back it up. Colome has allowed one earned run or fewer in 11 of his 17 starts this season between Durham and the Rays combined. He’s 2-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 innings pitched in the majors. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in three of his five starts at this level.

Maddon praised the performance of Colome’s cutter and slider Monday. Bottom line: Colome gave the Rays a chance. Mission accomplished.

”Really good, really comfortable,” Colome said in describing his performance. ”Some pitches didn’t work, but it’s important when I threw a strike and felt really good.”

It was good for the Rays that Colome found comfort in the first start of his latest stint with them. Now, more study will be done on Karns, Franklin and Riefenhauser. Reliever Steve Geltz, who has made seven appearances since being promoted from Durham on Sept. 1, will be worth watching as well.

Sure, focus has shifted from pennant races and playoff possibilities.

But there remain reasons to follow how some young Rays players will develop in these final weeks.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.