Bartolo Colon's age is finally starting to show. The 41-year-old pitcher's struggles continued yesterday, as he allowed four runs and nine hits in 6.2 innings and is just 1-7 with a 5.30 ERA in his last nine starts dating back to June 18 after getting off to a 9-4 start.
With the team in the midst of a pennant race, it remains to be seen how much more patience the Mets will have for Colon. He has struggled mightily over the last two months and the team may not be able to afford many more bad outings. Although he has had a few very nice starts during his two-month slump, the Mets are 1-8 during Colon's last nine starts. Continuing this trend could greatly jeopardize their playoff chances, especially with such a potentially small margin for error.
If the Mets ultimately go with a six-man rotation when Steven Matz comes back in September, it is reasonable to think that Colon will continue to get regular starts. Sandy Alderson has said that the Mets want to to limit their young pitchers' innings, so a six-man rotation will probably happen. But if the Mets decide against innings limits and go with a five-man rotation, it is hard to imagine Colon staying in the rotation, especially with the way the Mets' other pitchers have fared this season.
Even in a six-man rotation, the Mets have options outside of Colon should he continue to struggle. Dillon Gee and Logan Verrett have been talked about as potential spot starters for a game later this month, and they could very well take Colon's spot. In Triple-A, Gee has allowed two earned runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts and Verrett has a 3.31 ERA. Additionally, Rafael Montero resumed rehabbing last week and could become an option later in the season, although Terry Collins said that he is not close to playing in the majors.
Because of his past success and veteran status, the Mets will likely keep starting Colon and hope he can pitch like he did early in the season. Colon has bounced back from rough stretches in the past, so a turnaround would not be unprecedented. His walk rate is still as low as ever; Colon has walked just six batters over his last 52.2 innings, and has walked just 14 all season. He also has recorded quality starts as recently as last week against the Marlins, so the potential is still there.
Colon's spot in the Mets' rotation appears to be safe for now, but if he continues to see bad results—and if the Mets continue to walk a fine line between contention and not—don't be too surprised if he is taken out of the rotation.