Tampa Bay Rays pitchers and catchers reported on February 23rd, but Alex Colome did not arrive in camp until yesterday. He was a full two weeks late and much has transpired during that span. Colome’s principal competition for the fifth starter spot, Nate Karns, has already made two appearances while Drew Smyly’s shoulder bursitis makes Colome an even more critical part of the Rays’ plans.
When asked by reporters, Colome said that he expected to get into a spring training game by the weekend. When Kevin Cash was questioned about the same thing, he responded that Colome could be ready even sooner than that. While it is unfortunate that Colome was delayed so much, the Rays were happy that he was at least facing live hitters and stretching himself out.
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As it turns out, though, Colome was not facing the live hitters we thought he was facing. Instead, of pitching at the Rays’ complex in the Dominican, Colome was pitching at home. With that in mind, Colome’s opposition was the kids from his neighborhood. Colome was asked “Any good hitters in your neighborhood?” His answer was “yeah.” It is not as though it would have made a huge difference if Colome was facing 16 or 17 year olds at the Rays’ complex.
By the way, minor league spring training is just getting started, so were there even any hitters at the Rays’ Dominican base of operations a week or two ago? We heard that Colome was there at some point, but they may have told him that he was better off training at home anyway. Colome has been blamed for laziness after visa issues that were more of a bureaucratic nightmare, and let’s make sure that he isn’t accused of laziness too often for this either.
Of course, it is not as though Colome is a perfect angel. A performance-enhancing drug suspension prevented him from throwing more innings last year, and his command could use more work. However, Colome may still be the best option that the Rays have. He is armed with a mid-90’s fastball plus two solid secondary pitches in his slider and changeup. His changeup looked better than expected during his time in the major leagues last season.
Colome even told the reporters in attendance that he is working on his curveball. Everything Colome throws is hard–his slider and changeup both hit the high-80’s–and having a high-70’s curveball could be a nice change of pace. If Colome gets that pitch working, though, it might just be overkill.
Alex Colome already has three solid pitches while Nate Karns only has two. He forces weak contact consistently while Karns allows too many home runs. And at the end of the day, the Rays want Colome to be ready for the start of the season and just maybe need him to be. Both of them may make the Opening Day roster thanks to Smyly’s injury, but Colome is the pitcher with the best chance of staying there after Smyly returns.