Colome keeps cool as late-innings workhorse

Colome keeps cool as late-innings workhorse

DETROIT -- Alex Colome made it clear before Saturday's game: He wanted to pitch, regardless of the situation.

"I don't know if he wanted to pitch that much," Rays manager Kevin Cash quipped after Colome's five-out save in a win against the Tigers. "But we got him to pitch, and he got a lot of big outs for us."

Colome, 28, has gotten a lot of big outs for Tampa Bay this season, his second as the team's closer. He was an All-Star with 37 saves in 2016 and already has 19 saves in '17, tied for the most in the American League and tied for second in MLB.

What impresses Colome's manager and teammates most is his composure on the mound. On Saturday, he entered the game in the eighth inning with one out and the tying run on second base. Colome got Alex Presley to chase a cutter on a full-count pitch, and Nicholas Castellanos to ground out to end the threat.

Then in the ninth, Mikie Mahtook hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on a sacrifice. With two outs, Rays infielders shifted to the right for Alex Avila, anticipating a pulled ball. That allowed Mahtook to steal an unoccupied third base with ease and increase the pressure on Colome.

"I think that probably shows how much confidence we have in Alex Colome," Cash said. "We'll give up 90 feet to [allow Mahtook to] get to third, trusting that if we put the guys in the right spot, we'll make a play and he'll make a pitch."

Colome made the pitch, a cutter running toward Avila, to get a grounder on the right side that ended the game. For Colome, pitching with the tying runner in scoring position in back-to-back innings was a nonissue because he doesn't get nervous, he said. His demeanor never wavers, which is a boost for the defense behind him.

"By him keeping his cool and not showing any emotion, that's kind of what you want out of a closer," said shortstop Tim Beckham, who's been Colome's teammate in the Rays' system since 2008. "He's definitely had that closer mentality since I've known him."

Colome has already made 30 appearances this season, more than any closer with at least 13 saves. But twice in June he's gone five or more days between outings, which is more spaced out than he'd prefer.

He said he felt tired after his last game, a save on June 11 against Oakland, and was happy to get into Saturday's game -- though he admitted pitching 1 2/3 innings was more than he'd expected.

"No, [I was expecting] just one inning," he said, smiling. "But you know, this is the job. I just try to do my best every time."

Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.