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Meet The New Mariners: Álex Colomé

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El Caballo ha llegado

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Seattle Mariners Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

After being a top prospect for the Rays and climbing up the minor league ladder, Álex Colomé made his major league debut five years ago, almost to the day, on May 30th, 2013, for Tampa Bay. He would remain a Ray up until last Friday.

Let’s look back on his career.

He was born in the Dominican Republic, in Santo Domingo, and was signed ten years ago as a non-drafted free agent after playing in the DR. Like many relievers, Colomé began his career as a starting pitcher, and caution was upheld in his development. Early in his debut season, a strained elbow forced the Dominican power pitcher to land on the DL after only three starts. He did not require surgery of any kind, but the injury forced him out of the game for the entirety of the 2013 season. In those 16 innings, Colomé faced 71 batters, allowed 14 hits, and 4 earned runs.

It may have seemed like an average, replacement level type of season for the young pitcher with his cool 2.25 ERA, but high 5.05 FIP. But that’s where his story truly begins.

Álex Colomé’s nickname is El Caballo, Spanish for “the horse.” The moniker grabbed my attention instantly, and I had my guesses as to how Colomé came about such a name.

I assumed that the Spanish appellation was tied to his pitching profile. Colomé is a power pitcher, essentially only throwing two pitches, a cutter that sits at 89 mph and a consistent fastball that whizzes by batters at 95 mph. Those two pitches have worked well for the Rays’ All-Star closer, despite the struggles he faced in his transition from starter to reliever, a transition that not many pitchers take as humbly as Colomé.

But the nickname had nothing to do with Colomé being a power-pitching workhorse.

Before the start of the 2014 season, El Colomé tested positive for PEDs in a random drug test. The performance enhancing drug in question was Boldenone, a steroid known to treat, you guessed it, horses. Colomé was suspended for 50 games, and upon his return, El Caballo was born. Colomé took the name and galloped with it.

In 2015, he pitched 109.2 innings and began his transition from starter to reliever. He had an 8-5 record in 13 starts, but appeared in 43 games. In that time, he struck out almost three times as many batters as he walked, and began cementing himself as one of the essential relievers in the Rays’ bullpen.

In 2016, El Caballo truly lived up to his name, but instead of serving up hay, Colomé was serving up Ks. He struck out almost five times as many batters as he walked in 57 appearances with 71 Ks. He sported a a 1.91 ERA and a 2.92 FIP. Midway, through the season, he earned himself a spot on the American League All-Star Team. Despite leading the Majors in saves last year (47), 2016 was arguably Colomé’s best season to date.

Interestingly enough, despite nearly doubling his ERA, issuing more walks, and increasing his FIP from 2016 to 2017, Colomé is still showing positive signs going into 2018. His groundball rate is higher than it has ever been at 55.1%. In 22.2 innings pitched this season, his contact percentage is almost as low as his All-Star season, and his swinging strike percentage is almost as high, much better than last season. Colomé’s BABIP is also at a career high, but that can be attributed to bad luck. With a defense like the Mariners supporting him behind the mound and his high groundball rate, Colomé already has the qualities and assets this Mariners team needs at this moment.

And El Caballo proved it.

On May 27, Colomé made his Mariners debut. It was the top of the ninth against the top of the Twins lineup in a save situation which he knew all too well. He walked up to mound, calm and as collected as ever, as if Safeco was his longtime home.

Colomé likes to attack. He gets ahead of batters, but also likes to take his time in between pitches to gather himself, to make sure he can execute the proper pitch to get the outs he needs. One pitch to Brian Dozier, and Dozier was out. Two pitches to Max Kepler, and Kepler was out. Six pitches to Miguel Sanó, and Sanó was out.

El Caballo might just be what this bullpen needs.

Bienvenido a Seattle, Álex.