Alex Colome is 26 years old yet has just 8 big league appearances to his credit. He hopes that this stint with the Tampa Bay Rays will be the turning point for him, the time that he arrives to stay and pitches the way he know he is capable. Before he gets the chance to start that tonight, however, let’s talk for a little while about how he arrived at this juncture.
Who would have thought that Colome would be still an inexperienced big leaguer in 2015 after how good he looked in 2012? That year, the Tampa Bay Rays were planning to use Colome is a bullpen weapon on September and possibly the postseason like they had with David Price in 2008 and Matt Moore in the year prior. Instead, shoulder soreness ended his season prematurely and his big league debut never did take place.
Colome finally made his first major league start against the Miami Marlins on May 30, 2013, and it wound up being everything that he could have hoped for. He lasted 5.2 innings allowing just an unearned run on 5 hits, striking out 7 while walking 2. He was good enough that the Rays called him up again at the end of June. After two outings with middling results, however, Colome went down again, this time with an elbow strain. He didn’t pitch at any level the rest of the year.
2014 brought a new source of adversity: a drug suspension for a horse steroid. Colome still had the arsenal to be a successful big league pitcher, but his suspension had a chance to prevent him from ever being a starter for the Rays. Innings had always been a problem for Colome as he tossed just 91.2 frame in 2012 and 86 between the minors and majors in 2013, and now this suspension was going to hold him back even more. It appeared to be time to see what he could do in relief.
Colome’s Rays debut in 2014 did come out of the bullpen, but only under strange circumstances. His suspension was finally over and he was set to return to Triple-A Durham when the Rays instead called him up for a long relief stint on May 26th. He was mediocre, allowing 2 runs in 4 innings without striking out a batter, but it said a lot that the Rays trusted him over the pitchers who had been logging innings at Durham for weeks before that.
Colome resurfaced on June 27th for a spot-start in the first game of a doubleheader and pitched well once again. He went 5.2 innings against the Baltimore Orioles allowing just 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 4. The Tampa Bay Rays brought him back once again in September and he tossed 6.2 shutout innings against the New York Yankees in his first start. Then, following a disastrous relief appearance, he tossed 6.2 scoreless frames on September 27th to earn the Rays’ last victory of the year. He certainly appeared big league-ready on the whole.
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Colome tossed 27 innings in Winter Ball to 147.2 on the season and the Rays traded Jeremy Hellickson to open up a rotation spot for him. His chance to earn a spot in the Rays’ staring five had arrived, and he was primed to seize it. But we know what happened next–visa issues and then pneumonia. He didn’t even get into a rehab game on April 11th and only now, with the month of May upon us, is he ready to make his 2015 Rays debut.
After he appears in tonight’s game, Alex Colome’s career line will have an interesting quirk for five days: he will have three career games each in the months of May, June, and September, and none in any other month. That is quite appropriate given the strangeness of his career path in recent years. All Colome cares about at this point, though, is that the injuries and health problems are in the past and he is officially ready to start the nice big league career his arsenal dictates that he should have. The coming weeks will tell us how that goes.