Twins’ Bartolo Coln: ‘The older I get, the more I want to play.’ – Winona Daily News

By JoanneRUSSELL25

DETROIT Near the open doorway in the Comerica Park visitors clubhouse is a sign warning the curious to stay out of the kitchen. No media, it reads, making its point in all caps. So, its with some irony that a few feet away, Bartolo Coln agrees to a brief one-on-one with a reporter, his first since joining the Minnesota Twins.

Coln has fulfilled his media requirements when he starts, speaking with reporters through Twins interpreter Carlos Font about his performances, but thats where he prefers to leave it. Hes easy to find in the clubhouse, and will say hello and shake your hand, but he also makes it clear that its not going any further which would be fine if he hadnt become an essential part of the Twins playoff chase.

When the Twins signed Coln to a minor league deal on July 7, the primary response was laughter. This is the help the American League Centrals surprise team is getting for the stretch run, a 44-year-old with a 2-8 record and 8.14 earned-run average who had just been given his outright release by the Atlanta Braves?

Well, no ones laughing now.

I think it probably raised a few eyebrows when we brought him in, but hes been valuable, manager Paul Molitor said.

What appears to be happening is another in a string of career resurrections for the right-hander who broke in with the Cleveland Indians in 1997, won a Cy Young Award in 2005 and signed his first free-agent minor league deal with Boston in 2008. Hes no longer throwing hard, but his control remains as sharp as his competitive nature.

The older I get, the more I want to play, he said.

Over his past three starts, Coln is 2-0 with a 2.82 ERA with three walks and 11 strikeouts in 22.1 innings pitched. In his last start, he became the oldest AL pitcher to throw a complete game since Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan did it for Texas in 1992. On Tuesday, hell make the most important start of the season so far in the opener of a three-game series against the first-place Cleveland Indians at Target Field.

That explains the persistence that has kept alive a career that has seemed dead more than once. It was a whopping nine years ago that Coln first signed a minor league deal with a spring training invite, a cheap gambit by the Boston Red Sox. In four seasons from 2006-09, he went 14-21 with a 5.18 ERA with three clubs while batting elbow and shoulder problems. He missed all of 2010.

I thought I was going to be done, he said.

Coln credits 2010 stem-cell treatment fat and bone marrow was re-injected into his elbow and shoulder for saving his arm. Major League Baseball studied the treatment to see if it fell under its performance-enhancing drug policy, but it has since become a popular, if not quite trumpeted, treatment for pitchers hoping to avoid reconstructive surgery.

It has helped me to keep my arm young and keep me going, Coln said.

Coln, however, did fall afoul of MLB when he tested positive for testosterone in August 2012. He was 39, and many suspected had finally hit the end of the road. Yet, he returned the next season with Oakland and went 18-6 with a 2.65 ERA and an AL-best three shutouts.

Last season, he went 15-8 with a 3.34 ERA with the Mets, parlaying the season into a one-year, $12.5 million deal with Atlanta. The Braves are still on the hook for most of that contract, meaning the Twins are getting Coln at a bargain, prorated league minimum roughly $220,000.

He chose the Twins over the Mets after receiving a call from friend and former teammate in Anaheim, Ervin Santana.

The Mets and the Twins were the teams requesting my services, and I was weighing my options, Coln said. Ervin Santana called me and asked me to come and told me how good the organization was, how good the team was. After I started looking at it, and seeing how young their pitching was and how many young kids we had on the team, and I thought its not only an opportunity for me to pitch, but an opportunity to teach other young players how to pitch and how to be big-leaguers.

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Twins’ Bartolo Coln: ‘The older I get, the more I want to play.’ – Winona Daily News

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