Alex Colomé has clear path to be Colorado Rockies’ closer

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz (AP) — Alex Colomé identifies as a closer, and he has a clear path to that role in the Colorado bullpen. If the Rockies aren’t ready to bestow the title, he understands.

“Only the manager knows that role,” Colomé said. “I’m just here to pitch.”

The Rockies signed the free-agent right-hander to a one-year, $4.15 million contract to add a proven performer to the bullpen, which has not been on firm footing since Wade Davis had 43 saves in 2018. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was the last time the Rockies had a winning record.

Colomé, 33, has 155 career saves in a nine-year career that has included stops in Tampa Bay, Seattle, Chicago (White Sox), and Minnesota.

“A veteran reliever who has been through the battles,” Colorado manager Bud Black said. “He’s passed the test of time with performance. A great addition to help fortify the back end of our bullpen. That’s what he sees himself as. That’s what we see him as. Looking forward to him being a part of our group and helping us win.”

Colomé had 37 saves with Tampa Bay in 2016 and led the American League with 47 saves for the Rays in 2017. He had 30 saves with the White Sox in 2019 but faltered early in Minnesota last season and was moved to middle relief before regaining the closer’s job in August.

Colomé and converted 15 of his last 18 save chances with the Twins, including a stretch in which he was scored on only twice in 18 appearances.

“It was tough for a while when I struggled” he said. “I had to adapt to a new role. Luckily, I had some success and got back to where I needed to be. I’m a closer. I’ve done that most of my career. But if the role changes where I need to be somewhere else, I can do that as well.”

Daniel Bard was the Rockies’ principal closer for the first four months of the 2021 season. He converted 20 of 28 save opportunities with a 5.21 ERA before giving way to Carlos Estévez in late August. Estévez was 11 of 17 in save chances with a 4.38 ERA last season.

Bard, the first Rockies’ reliever to record more than 15 saves since Davis’ big year, and Estévez are among a group vying for high-leverage bullpen roles.

“I love the ninth inning. It was a lot of fun to be able to do it the last couple of years,” Bard said. “I want to be a part of a winner and I want to pitch well myself. If everybody around me is pitching well in that bullpen, if that means me in the seventh or the eighth, I’m happy with that. That’s the thing, we have three or four guys who can do it.”

Colomé can earn up to $675,000 in bonuses this season. He would make $100,000 for winning the Most Valuable Player, the Cy Young Award, and the Hoffman Award as the top reliever in the National League. He would make $50,000 if he finishes second through fifth in MVP and Cy Young voting and $50,000 for being a finalist for the top reliever award. He also would make $100,000 for being the comeback player of the year, $75,000 for being named the LCS MVP, and $100,000 as World Series MVP.

Pitching at mile-high Coors Field doesn’t faze him one bit.

“I’m not afraid to pitch anywhere. All I need is a baseball,” Colomé said.

As for choosing the Rockies from among other suitors, he said “I know it is a good team, I know what type of team it can be. I hear a lot of good things with the relationships that are built here, so that’s part of the reason that I signed.”

Black said roles will be defined in due time.

“When that opening day comes, we are going to have somebody designated in my mind as the guy who is going to pitch the ninth inning,” Black said. “With that said, we also know the importance of the group to whatever role needs to be filled on a given night. We have guys who can do it. It takes them all.”

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