PEORIA, Ariz. – They are in need of relief pitchers who can eat innings, and the Seattle Mariners may have found one in Jesus Colome – or created one.
The 32-year-old right-handed pitcher had spent parts of eight seasons in the big-leagues when the Mariners brought him to spring training on a minor league contract and became his third team in a year.
Colome’s résumé was as a mop-up man, a guy brought into games that had gotten away to finish them.
“He’s had streaks where he’s pitched very well in the big leagues, but command was always a bit of an issue,” pitching coach Rick Adair said.
In 329 major league games, Colome had a 4.66 earned run average. When general manager Jack Zduriencik signed him, he was bringing in an impact pitcher. He was bringing in an arm with some experience – and seeing what Adair and bullpen coach John Wetteland could do with it.
What they’ve done is rebuild his confidence, retooled his delivery and his approach on the mound.
“I’m a lot different pitcher than I was when I got here,” Colome said Thursday. “The pitching coach watched me throw two bullpen (sessions), then talked to me about changing my body posture on the mound, making a little adjustment in my stride.
“The important thing for me was how much he was trying to help me. He’s a good man, and I wanted his help. He knows more than I do.”
Adair isn’t sure Colome even knows his name, but that’s not important. What is? Colome’s openness to change, embracing new ideas and his chance of landing a job in the Seattle bullpen.
“He might be our Miguel Batista this year,” manager Don Wakamatsu said. “He gives us the flexibility of a pitcher who can work in a lot of roles, give us some innings. I think he’ll help us.”
When camp began, there were 31 pitchers on campus, and Colome threw two bullpen sessions before Adair approached him.
“I didn’t know a lot about him, but seeing him the first day I liked his arm, his body, but some of the things he did made no sense,” Adair said. “He wanted to learn, he listened and tried new things.
“It’s all about alignment, position and rhythm – everything to do with helping your arm work naturally. Jesus has changed his angle, and his command has improved tremendously.”
Colome was as impressed with Adair’s tenacity as his expertise.
“Sometimes, coaches will tell you something and a week later you forget it and they forget it,” he said. “He worked with me every day – every day – and stayed with me when I made the changes.
“I’ve got better command now, better location down in the strike zone. The coach has been working with me all spring, every bullpen session.”
Colome has been touched by Adair’s attention.
“I feel lucky. He wants to help. … He had to see everybody, work with everybody, but he always took time to work with me.”
Why? Adair grins.
“You meet him and his openness, that smile – you see the effort there. Those are the guys that just get you excited,” he said.
“He has a plus change-up, a good slider and a fastball we haven’t seen at its best just yet. We’re looking for flexibility in the bullpen – someone who can face one hitter, work an inning or work two or three on occasion.
“Jesus can do that. We like him.”
Colome hasn’t just relied on coaching this spring. He studies his craft, and watches television.
“I like to watch Felix in the bullpen, and (Cliff) Lee. The way they work, the way they throw – man, they can pitch. Just watching them helps,” he said. “And I watch baseball on TV at night, too. You never know when you can learn something.”