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Tampa Bay Rays: Alex Colome Is Running Out of Excuses

By Robbie Knopf
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There was supposed to be no pressure at all on Alex Colome this season. He was supposed to be either the fifth starter in a loaded Tampa Bay Rays rotation or a long reliever, and in either spot, he only had to be himself. Colome is a talented pitcher, so the expectation was that he would turn into a competent starter if he was given the opportunity. However, if he only lasted five innings per start or had the occasional bad outing, the Rays were going to have better performing pitchers around him to save the bullpen on other nights and come back strongly after rough losses.

Instead, Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly got hurt, leaving the Rays with a rotation of Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns, Erasmo Ramirez, and Colome. Colome can still think of himself as the fifth starter if he so chooses, but with Karns and Ramirez often leaving games early as well, suddenly there is a lot more pressure on him. Colome doesn’t have time for a learning experience with pitchers like Cobb as his mentors. He needs to perform and go deep into games right now, and thus far, he doesn’t done so.

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One thing that Colome has done excellently to begin his big league time this season is throw strikes. In 19.1 innings, he has just 16 strikeouts versus 2 walks–only Michael Pineda, Bartolo Colon, and Phil Hughes have walked fewer batters per 9 innings than Colome. However, he has also allowed more than a hit per inning, given up four home runs in one start, and only gotten past five innings once. For his first two starts, he was on a strict pitch count and it makes sense that he was taken out after five frames. In his last two, meanwhile, he had no command in one outing and had nothing on his secondary pitches in the other.

The hope is that both Colome’s command and secondary pitches are present tonight to lead him to success. If that isn’t the case, though, he is a big league pitcher and he needs to find ways to adapt. If he is making too many mistakes over the middle of the plate, he should stop trying to throw so many strikes. Control doesn’t mean as much as command within the zone in the big leagues, and there is always the danger of trying too hard to get ahead of hitters.

If the secondary pitches aren’t working, meanwhile, Colome can emulate Jake Odorizzi and even Chris Archer by putting hitters away with fastballs up. If he can just throw a slider or curveball in the dirt, it can set up heaters above the belt quite well. Colome has the lowest whiffs on his fastball by far among the Rays’ current starters. If he is going to change that–and give him more margin for error when he doesn’t have his good slider–he needs to make a conscious effort to use it more up in the zone.

It is understandable that Alex Colome is still developing as a starting pitcher, but the Tampa Bay Rays simply don’t have the time to let him go through growing pains. It is time for Colome to start living up to his potential and be a pitcher lifting the Rays’ pitching staff rather than dragging it down.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays: Should We Be Concerned About Justin O’Conner?

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