WASHINGTON (AP) -When Jesus Colome was working his way through the minors, scouts raved about his eye-popping numbers on the radar gun. In 2001, one survey credited him with the best fastball in the International League.
Maybe the praise was a little too much.
``I think he was one of those guys who was in love with the gun,'' Washington Nationals manager Manny Acta said. ``One of those guys who would throw a pitch and try to find how hard he threw it instead of where he threw it.''
Discarded early last season after six inconsistent years with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Colome has revived his career in Washington. He came to spring training on a minor league contract, but as May has turned to June the right-handed reliever remains the Nationals' unlikely leader in wins with a 4-0 record. His 2.43 ERA is the best on the staff for any pitcher who has thrown more than 20 innings.
``I had a chance to start over, to start a new life. New team, new guys - everything's new,'' Colome said with a smile. ``Now I'm happy. I'm throwing good.''
As expected, this has been a challenging year for the Nationals staff, and injuries have made it more so. The streaky team looks lousy one week, competitive the next. The bullpen was supposed to provide some form of stability, but setup man Jon Rauch and closer Chad Cordero have both been inconsistent.
Only Colome has been reliable. He has pitched in more games (29) than any pitcher except Rauch and has been used in all sorts of roles. He even has a save, his first in the majors since 2004.
``He's gone out there and been our best pitcher out of the bullpen,'' Cordero said. ``It doesn't matter what Manny wants him to do, he just gets it done. He doesn't care what inning or what situation he's in. He just does the job and he's done a good job.''
Colome said the Devil Rays didn't believe him when he was feeling pain in his arm last year, so he was cut and spent the rest of the year in the New York Yankees' farm system. When he joined the Nationals this spring, he corrected a mechanical flaw in his delivery and learned how to rely more on his slider and changeup.
``He has finally realized that he has to pitch instead of trying to throw the ball by everybody,'' Acta said. ``You can see now how he can start hitters off with offspeed stuff. Before, he was trying to blow everybody away. It took him awhile, but I'm glad he's getting it with us.''
There's even been some talk of Colome as an All-Star, if only by default. Every team has to send at least one player to the midseason classic, and no one on the Nationals roster is currently having what could be considered a legitimate All-Star season.
Colome's biggest challenge in Washington, however, could be the stark reality of another losing season. He said that was one of the toughest things about playing in Tampa Bay, where his record over six years was 11-22 for the perennial doormat.
``When you go to the stadium sometimes, you've already got it in your mind that you're going to lose,'' Colome said. ``I want to win games. But something happens when every day, every game, you lose, it gets to you.''
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AP Freelance Writer Pete Kerzel contributed to this report.
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