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Top 25 Baseball Stories of 2016 — #14: Bartolo Colon hits a homer

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We’re a few short days away from 2017 so it’s a good time to look back at the top 25 baseball stories of 2016. Some of them took place on the field, some of them off the field and some of them were creatures of social media, fan chatter and the like. No matter where the story broke, however, these were the stories baseball fans were talking about most this past year.

As Bartolo Colon walked to the plate in the second inning of the Mets-Padres game in San Diego on the night of May 7, he was a few days shy of his 43rd birthday. He was also a complete and utter offensive failure, posting a batting average of .089 in 225 at-bats, while striking out 119 times.

While that went by mostly unremarked upon for years, as he grew older and heftier and became something of a fan favorite, Colon’s lack of hitting ability actually began to become endearing. He often swung so hard that his helmet fell off in the process, drawing a mixture of cheers and laughs.

But on this night, the laughter disappeared and the cheers grew louder. Why? Because Bartolo Colon hit a homer:

The blast, which hit the lower level of the Western Metal Supply Building in left field of Petco Park, came off of James Shields. The pitch was a verrry straight 90 m.p.h. fastball, but a homer is a homer. Even when the home run trot can be timed with a sun dial.

In the wake of the homer, many people — even some who you thought would know better — argued that it justified pitchers batting and the lunacy of the designated hitter. Other, more sensible people, mind you, noted that this was merely the exception which proves the futility of having pitchers bat. Even newly-minted sluggers like Colon who, later that month, literally told the other team that he didn’t plan on swinging at any pitches in a game so they should feel free to strike him out.

Those arguments will never end, of course. Nor will the Colon at bats any time soon. He just signed a contract with a National League team, so maybe he’ll hit his second dinger at age 44.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.