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Friday night a microcosm of Josh Collmenter’s season

After the Diamondbacks scored six runs in the second
inning of Friday’s game against the Mets, Josh Collmenter
didn’t plan to give up his fifth earned run of the game —
a three-run home run by David Wright — just eight
pitches later.

*****

The second-year right-hander reported to spring training
this February as a rotation shoe-in, after posting a 10-10
record and 3.38 ERA in 31 games (154.1 innings pitched) in
2011 — numbers that helped him to finish fifth in
National League Rookie of the Year voting. But things
didn’t exactly go Collmenter’s way in spring training. He
went 0-4 in six starts, logging a 9.95 ERA while opponents
combined for a .325 batting average against him. Such a
flat performance only roused Collmenter’s critics, who
regarded him as nothing more than a deceptive “novelty
act” whose pitches lacked life.

So as the Diamondbacks headed into the regular season, the
general consensus of the media and the fan base seemed to
be that Collmenter no longer deserved a spot in the team’s
starting rotation. That notion was spiritedly reinforced
by the 26-year-old’s first start of the year — a three-
inning, six-hit, six-run misadventure versus the division
rival Giants.

By the end of April, Collmenter was 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA in
four starts, corroborating the suspicion that so many had
previously voiced. And to the bullpen he went, newly
ordained as the long relief man. Collmenter, who
anticipated a season squarely in the middle of the
Diamondbacks’ starting rotation, found himself squarely in
the depths of the team’s bullpen.

Fast forward about two months — it’s June 22 and
Collmenter, frankly, isn’t much more than an afterthought,
despite his quietly-solid relief outings, allowing just
three earned runs in 18.1 innings pitched, good for a 1.49
ERA in that stretch. It’s a Friday night and the
Diamondbacks are at home, set to open a three-game series
with the Cubs. Joe Saunders is the scheduled starting
pitcher.

About 10 minutes prior to first pitch, Saunders, who was
having difficulty getting warmed up due to stiffness in
his shoulder, is scratched. So Collmenter got the call and
proceeded to pitch four innings of three-hit, one-run
baseball on about five minutes of preparation.

Ten days later, he made another start — this one on the
road, in Milwaukee — and he, again, gave up just three
hits and one run, lasting six innings.

Since then, he’s undefeated as a starter.

*****

Friday’s struggles resembled Collmenter’s early season
woes — they were early and many. They drew back
those familiar misgivings — “he can’t hide behind his
deceptive delivery anymore,” “his novelty is fading,”
“hitters have figured him out.” Indeed, after giving up
that three-run home run to Wright — the Mets’ fifth
earned run before Collmenter even collected his seventh
out of the game — I overheard someone in the press box
mutter, “There’s the Josh we know and love.”

But we should know by now that Collmenter isn’t all that
fazed by mishap. After all, that — mishap — was really
the mark of his first month of the season, as well as the
spring that preceded it. Yet, flawed as that was, he
remained resilient.

“Josh Collmenter really kept his composure,” Manager Kirk
Gibson would say of him following the game. “It was just
typical Coll-y … A lot of guys would have lost their
composure there … Guy’s got ice in his veins and he’s
just very calm and on-task at all times, regardless of the
circumstances.”

Here he was, walking behind the pitcher’s mound at Chase
Field. Hat off, wiping the sweat from his forehead as the
Mets’ third baseman trotted around the bases. His team,
the one that repeatedly gave him a chance — one that he
blew over and over — early in the season, despite his
struggles, had again given him a chance — a six-run one
on Friday and it sure as heck looked like he was going
to blow this one, too.

But somehow, he rallied, retiring 12 of the next 14 Mets
he’d face, five via strikeout, while striking out the side
with just 12 pitches in his last inning of work.

Yeah, he’s all novelty. All deception. He’d have to be if
he’s manhandling batters the second and third times
through the order, right?

It might be time to add resilience to that scouting
report, too.