Friday, September 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays' Colome impresses with smooth transition to closer

CHICAGO — Amid all that has gone wrong for the Rays this year in terms of decision-making and execution, a few things have gone very right.

Certainly high on that list would be Alex Colome's performance in taking over the closer's role when Brad Boxberger was injured in spring training — and for all intents and purpose taking the job away going forward.

"I don't think anyone knew exactly how it was going to turn out, and he's just continued to impress," manager Kevin Cash said. "It's not so much the results, it's the way he's carried himself, the demeanor he has in those big situations."

The results have been impressive, as Colome went into Monday's game against the White Sox having converted 35 saves — fifth most in the AL — in 37 chances, including six of four or more outs, with a 1.84 ERA and .200 opponents average and a trip to the All-Star Game.

But Cash is right in pointing out how well Colome handled the promotion, specifically his sense of calm and air of confidence, especially notable considering he had only a couple of winter ball and none during nine seasons in the minors or majors.

"He took to that role and never flinched at all," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "He had a pretty unflappable demeanor prior to that, but he really kind of embraced the role. … He seamlessly slid in there and acted like he'd been there for 10 years."

Colome was used as starter until last season, when he pitched his way into the bullpen with inconsistent performances. But his high-end stuff was too good for him to languish as a long reliever. So after taking the Rays' pitch to simplify his approach by shedding his changeup and curveball to focus on his upper 90s fastball and cutter, he eased into some late-season high-leverage situations and did well.

With Jake McGee traded, Colome figured to have a larger 2016 role. But when Boxberger had mid spring surgery for a core muscle repair that would sideline him for the first two months (then for more after an oblique strain in his first game back), Colome responded.

He said the biggest key was not to change anything, advice he garnered over the years from veteran relievers such as Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta.

"I put in my mind that if I be like nervous or try to do something different in the ninth inning, I could mess up the game," Colome said. "You have to be, like, focused on what you do pitch after pitch and make good pitches."

That he has, further impressing Rays veterans by staying focused and humble.

"He did an excellent job filling in, for a position that voided when I went down'' said Boxberger,'' who had an AL-high 41 saves and was a 2015 All-Star.

Colome will be the 11th pitcher to lead the Rays in saves the past 12 seasons. Though it took the injury for Colome to get his shot, it also fit a pattern.

The Rays tend to adhere to a philosophy that success for relievers is largely unpredictable year to year, so they typically don't commit long years or large dollars, preferring to shuffle and restock. (One exception was trading for Rafael Soriano and paying him $7 million to join a 2010 team that won the AL East.)

To that end, Colome was a bargain this year, making $521,700, and should be again next year at just a slight raise. Boxberger, coming off a somewhat lost year (4-3, 4.84, 0-for-3 in saves), will be arb eligible, though not in line for as much of a raise as he would have been.

What shouldn't be assumed, Hickey said, is a reflection on the degree of difficulty of the task.

"I would absolutely, positively not even remotely say it's not that hard of a job to fill because you have seen what happens when there's other people trying to record those same 25th, 26th and 27th outs," Hickey said.

"You'll get an argument from some of the talking heads about how it's not that difficult or you could do it with anybody, but it certainly takes the right kind of a guy to be able to do it and do it well."

And Colome has been that guy.

"For a first-year closer, I felt great, but I think I can be better, too," Colome said. "I can make my location better, my cutter better. And I think I can be better than this year."

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

Comments
How do you really feel, Carlos Gomez?

How do you really feel, Carlos Gomez?

Rays veteran OF Carlos Gomez made his feelings about being ejected from Thursday's game by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher quite clear in a series of Twitter posts and a live video.Gomez was in the dugout complaining about being called out on strikes...
Updated: 9 hours ago
How to kill playoff chances? Rays blow six-run lead in 9th, lose 9-8 to Jays

How to kill playoff chances? Rays blow six-run lead in 9th, lose 9-8 to Jays

TORONTO — The Rays had done so much right in making their entertaining, exciting and endearing September run to make it a race for the final American League playoff spot.But it was what they couldn't do Thursday night, get the final three outs ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Thursday’s Rays-Blue Jays game

As if the Rays haven't been innovative enough — with relievers starting and starters relieving, with pitchers playing infield spots and infielders playing the outfield — Thursday they unveiled a four-man outfield.Thursday was another exam...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: Austin Meadows gets called up, but there’s nowhere to put him

Rays journal: Austin Meadows gets called up, but there’s nowhere to put him

TORONTO — After taking his first look at OF Austin Meadows in Rays colors, manager Kevin Cash said the promising prospect is a "huge part" of their future. But he also acknowledged that they might not get much of a look at that future over the ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, looking to keep rolling

For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, looking to keep rolling

UPDATE, 6:36: Cash said Meadows is "a huge part" of the future and the Rays want to get a look at what he can do, but he may not get much opportunity and Cash feels Kiermaier, Pham and Smith deserve to keep playing. … RHP Yonny Chirinos is slat...
Published: 09/20/18
Are these guys threatening to turn AL wild card into a race? Just ask the Rays

Are these guys threatening to turn AL wild card into a race? Just ask the Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays still have got a long way to go and a short time to get there if they're gonna do what they say can't be done.If the Smokey and the Bandit paraphrase doesn't work for you, then let's try another theatrical reference....
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Rangers game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Rangers game

OF Tommy Pham is playing with a sore groin and a sorer right ring finger, but he is determined, in his words, to "salvage" his season, and his two home runs Wednesday give him 19 total, five in 28 games with the Rays since the trade to go with a .327...
Published: 09/19/18
Rays journal: Austin Meadows among final wave of callups

Rays journal: Austin Meadows among final wave of callups

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays will get their first look at OF Austin Meadows when he joins them Thursday in Toronto as part of the final wave of callups.And based on what RHP Tyler Glasnow, a former Pirates and now Rays teammate, said, they're go...
Published: 09/19/18
Oh, baby! It’s Rays rookie dress up day

Oh, baby! It’s Rays rookie dress up day

Today was rookie dress-up day for the Rays, a long-standing, and recently by rule toned down, tradition among teams to embarrass their first-timers.Masterminded by veteran reliever Sergio Romo the Rays went with a fitting theme for the rookie-laden t...
Published: 09/19/18
Rays keep pressure on, beat Rangers 9-3 for fifth straight win

Rays keep pressure on, beat Rangers 9-3 for fifth straight win

ARLINGTON, Texas – The Rays still have a long way to go, and they are going to need a lot of help to get there.But they continue to do their part to try to make it a race for the final American League playoff spot, beating the Rangers 9-3 Wedne...
Published: 09/19/18