Three previous times, the Twins have acquired a former Cy Young winner and handed him the ball, in hopes that some of the magic could be recaptured.
It was an act of genius when Minnesota traded for Dean Chance, 1964 Cy Young winner, because the righthander went on to win 20 games with his new team in 1967. It was a disaster when the Twins agreed to be four-time Cy winner Steve Carlton’s last chance in 1987; the Hall of Fame lefthander posted an 8.54 ERA and was released the following spring. And their deal with Steve Bedrosian in 1991, four years after he won a Cy Young award in Atlanta’s bullpen, went pretty well. Bedrosian had a 4.42 ERA in the Twins’ pen, won a World Series ring, and (temporarily) retired.
So which example with Bartolo Colon follow tonight? The Twins certainly hope there’s a little Dean Chance left in the 44-year-old’s arm, but you definitely get the feeling they’d settle for some Steve Bedrosian.
“You don’t expect him to go out there and put up seven, eight zeros, but keep you in the game,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said of Colon, who will be the oldest starting pitcher in franchise history. “If he can start out in that direction, it will be helpful to us.”
It’s not a high bar, but Colon has had a troubled 2017, after signing for more than $12 million with the Braves last winter. But he was an All-Star just 12 months ago, so there’s no doubt that plenty of people are interested in what he shows tonight, when he faces Yankees righthander Luis Cessa, 19 years his junior. ESPN is broadcasting the game nationally, after all, and the Twins are expecting a strong walk-up crowd on what’s turned out to be a pleasant night.
“I think there’s a little bit of buzz around him getting a chance to pitch for us, which is good. All of here are trying not to get caught up in whatever level of mania it might bring,” Molitor said. “We’re just trying to find a way to lengthen our rotation. We’re taking a little bit of a risk in bringing a guy in who’s 44, and all the things that go with a guy who’s been around as long as he has and has had struggles this year. I’m hoping he goes out there and throws strikes.”
That’s always been Colon’s history, but too many of his strikes have been hit hard this year. A turnaround is hardly out of the question, though — his ERA, 8.14 this year, was just 3.43 with the Mets last season — and even the even-keeled Molitor admits Colon would be a great story if he can win.
“I think it’ll be fun if he does well. He’s a character of the game. When those guys are contributing, not only the fans rally around it, but your players do too,” Molitor said. “Everyone is excited to go out and see what happens tonight, but we’re trying to win, first and foremost.”
On with the show. Here are tonight’s lineups for Colon’s first game in Minnesota since 2005 at the Metrodome: