Paul Molitor routinely meets with new players as they report to the Twins, but his conversation on Monday was unique for the 60-year-old manager: Hey, remember when we played against each other?
“I asked him if he remembered facing me,” Molitor said of his session with 44-year-old Bartolo Colon, who will make his debut for the Twins — his 10th major league team — on Tuesday. “He said, ‘Yeah, I broke three of your bats.’ I don’t remember that part of the story. He said, ‘Two-seamer, right on your hands.’ I trust his memory more than mine.”
For the record, Molitor went 2-for-8 with two walks against Colon, then an Indians phenom, in 1997 and 1998. Molitor retired. Colon, well, he’s done the opposite. At 44, he’s now the oldest player in the game, the lone former Montreal Expo still active, and when he takes the mound at Target Field, he’ll become the oldest pitcher ever to start a game for the Twins.
“He’s got a lot of experiences I can learn from,” said Jose Berrios, who was 2 years old when his new teammate made his major league debut with the Indians. “Throw strikes, hit your spots, get outs.”
That’s the plan, though nobody is certain that Colon, a National League All-Star only 12 months ago, still is able to execute it. His velocity never reached 90 mph in his tuneup start Thursday at Rochester, and his last three starts before being cut last month by the Braves — against the Angels, Phillies and Padres, not exactly high-powered offenses — resulted in 23 runs over just 10 innings.
“He hasn’t pitched a lot in the last three weeks, other than his Rochester outing, but I do think if he’s doing his thing, he can possibly get through five or six innings,” Molitor said. “Hopefully he’s got a chance to put us in position to help us win and maybe get one for himself.”
Colon has 235 of them already, more than every Dominican native except Juan Marichal (243). He piled up most of those wins back when his fastball was closer to 100 mph than 90, and he won a Cy Young Award in 2005 with the Angels.
But he reinvented himself about seven years ago as a control artist. Colon throws his fastball more than 81 percent of the time now, according to fangraphs.com, and mixes in only two other pitches: a changeup that’s actually more of a reduced-velocity fastball, and a curve.
“He’s a completely different guy than I faced. It was high-end stuff. Some of the guys around today, [Max] Scherzer and people like that who can blow you away — he was that guy for a long time,” Molitor said. “He’s learned to make adjustments along the way to find a way to continue to pitch in the major leagues, which is impressive in itself.”
It’s a repertoire that helped him win 82 games since 2011, and made him one of the most popular players in Mets history.
“He does a great job of hitting spots,” Twins catcher Chris Gimenez said. “If you can locate a fastball down and away, a batter can’t lift it, he can’t put his ‘A’ swing on it. If he makes you swing at a pitch on the edge, the best you can do is flay at it.”
Colon reported to Target Field early Monday afternoon and played catch in the outfield, then asked permission to be excused from the game. He can’t be in the dugout until he’s activated Tuesday, so Molitor agreed. Colon will wear his customary No. 40, after first base coach Jeff Smith volunteered to give it up.
“All I want from Bartolo,” Smith said, “is a win.”
• Kennys Vargas, 7-for-20 in his latest stint with the Twins, was optioned to Class AAA Rochester after Monday’s game to make room for Colon. Vargas has been optioned to the minors four times this season. A move to add Colon to the 40-man roster will be announced Tuesday.