The Tampa Bay Rays pitching issues have been talked about plenty this year. But one person that has been rarely talked about is Alex Colome, who was hit with a 50-game suspension for PEDs just before the season started. Colome made 3 spot starts last year, and with injuries to Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb this season, he could easily have received more big league time had he not been suspended. Colome’s suspension is finally up on Saturday, and he is set to return to Triple-A Durham on Sunday or Monday. After he cost himself a probable big league opportunity early this season, is there any chance that he will receive another chance?
Colome has been a solid performer over his minor league career, posing a 3.55 ERA, 9.1 K/9, and a 4.2 BB/9. He has outstanding stuff, but has always had a bit of trouble commanding it, leading some to think a future bullpen move was in the cards. Now, Colome has seen multiple injury problems, and a bullpen move is even more likely. After pitching 157.2 innings in 2011, Colome has thrown 178.0 combined innings in 2012 and 2013 thanks to a series of arm injuries. The Rays were planning on giving him another chance to start and prove that he could stay healthy going into the season, and they still might, but his 50-game suspension all but ensures he is going to be a reliever in the future. Colome hasn’t built up enough innings since 2011 to be ready to take on a starter’s workload in the big leagues. Once again this season, he will not have enough innings built up to be ready to start in the big leagues. So, even if he does come back to start games for Triple-A Durham, he is probably not going to be able to pitch 180+ innings in a season, meaning a future starting role is highly unlikely.
With a move to the bullpen, Colome could quickly factor into the Rays late-inning plans in the major leagues. He has great stuff that would slot in nicely in the back of a bullpen, and his command issues would be masked. He is going to Triple-A for now, mainly to shake off the rust after not pitching most of the second half of last year and first part of this year (he has made 3 “rehab” starts at High-A in the past couple of weeks). The Rays don’t really have room for him in the bullpen for the time being, but injuries to pitchers occur well too often, and as Brandon Gomes showed us, relievers can quickly go from reliable to barely passable. If an injury occurs to the big league bullpen, or if a guy like Josh Lueke keeps struggling, Colome could very well be the Rays best option to call-up. At the bare minimum, he will be in the bullpen as a September call-up, and if the Rays somehow get back into contention he could serve in a “secret weapon” type of role. If the Rays do elect to have him start in Triple-A, there is a chance he could make a spot start in the big leagues if needed, but it is still unlikely his future role would lie there. There is definitely a chance Colome could impact the Rays at some point this season, and he could end up being one of their best relievers in short order thanks to his outstanding stuff.
Alex Colome’s stock has fallen tremendously in the past couple of years due to injuries, but regardless his stuff is so good that it is going to carry him into an important big league role in the near future. He is finally set to return from injury, and will return to Triple-A Durham, where he could serve either in the bullpen or rotation for the time being. His big league future lies in the bullpen, but he has a chance to be a shutdown reliever there in the very near future. Let’s just hope he can put his past issues behind him and take advantage of the next opportunity given to him.