TORONTO — Twins coach Jeff Pickler has watched a lot of video of Bartolo Colon lately, and he has an interesting description of why Colon remains effective at 44 years old. “Some guys’ pitches cut, and some guys’ pitches drop and some guys’ fade,” Pickler said. “Bartolo’s pitches, they scoot. Right at the end, right as the ball reaches the plate, it just sort of hops. You don’t expect it, and it’s hard to pick up sometimes, but when he’s got it going, it’s enough to keep you from making solid contact.”
Colon will try to make his pitches scoot past a lineup that has given the Twins plenty of trouble over the past couple of seasons, and in particular here at Rogers Centre. Colon is 11-6 with a 4.23 ERA in 27 career starts against the Blue Jays, and he’s 6-4 in Toronto. The Twins, on the other hand, haven’t won a game in Canada since June 11, 2014.
Much of the attention this weekend will be on the uniforms, since it’s the first of what figures to be an annual Players Weekend, with players allowed to wear nicknames on their unusually colorful jerseys. Not everybody’s nickname was approved — Taylor Rogers’ request for “Mister Rogers” was turned down, for instance, apparently for trademark reasons — but “the players are having fun with it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “It’s just one of those things that someone created that they think is good for the game.”
Molitor, though, chose not to use a nickname, not even “The Ignitor. And you probably won’t see him wear the jersey, either. “I’l probably have a jacket on,” he said. “I know, boring.”
The coaches are taking part, too, so you may notice first base coach Jeff Smith wearing “S W” on his jersey. He was originally going to go with “Smitty,” which is what people call him now, but Torii Hunter lobbied for Smith to use his nickname from his playing days, and Smith finally agreed, sort of. He wouldn’t use the full nickname, but he agreed to the initials.
So what does “S W” stand for? “Secret weapon,” explained Smith, who rose to Class AA in the Twins’ system as a catcher 15 years ago. “That’s what Torii used to call me.”
Look for the special bats and shoes, too — some players’ shoe companies had them design their own look for this weekend. And players like Eduardo Escobar will use the loosening of equipment restrictions to pay tribute. Escobar’s bats are painted yellow, blue and red, the colors of the Venezuelan flag.
Meanwhile, “Bocaton” is not here to take part in the weekend — that’s the nickname (it means “Big Mouth”) that Miguel Sano was going to wear this weekend, before he went on the disabled list with a stress reaction in his shin. And the news there isn’t so good yet either, Molitor said. Sano’s shin is still too sore for him to begin any rehab work toward a return.
“Progress has been slow. Each day has maybe been a tick better,” Molitor said. “But each day that it continues to increase at a tick, the [return after] 10 days becomes less likely. Hopefully that changes in the next four or five days.”
Sano, eligible to return next Wednesday, still can’t run, so he hasn’t been able to hit or field, either. “We’re not close to having him go run around and do baseball things, that’s for sure. We’re a couple of days away from that, if not longer,” Molitor said. “We’ll see. I’ve just heard it’s pretty slow progress so far.”
Here are the lineups for tonight’s first game of a three-game series: