B-Mets' Collazo keeps impressing

Amidst the turmoil surrounding the Binghamton Mets' starting rotation, right-hander Willie Collazo is continuing to establish himself as the team's unlikely pitching ace and stopper for the Double-A club.

Collazo is 3-0 in his last 3 starts, pitching to the tune of a sterling 0.76 ERA, but none were as brilliant as his Tuesday appearance versus New Britain: Collazo went the distance, tossing a complete game, five-hit shutout.

"I kept the ball down, I was throwing strikes, and everything was going right for me," said Collazo, modest about Tuesday's outing.

But it isn't as if his last start was anything so far fetched when you consider what Collazo has done this season.

At 6-4, he's leading Binghamton in wins. In fact, along with highly regarded Mike Pelfrey, and now undefeated Norfolk pitcher Evan MacLane, Collazo is the only B-Mets starter with a winning record this season.

The instability that plagued the back end of New York's rotation this year has taken its toll on the Mets' minor league clubs. The departure of former Binghamton aces Evan MacLane and Alay Soler paved the way for Collazo to emerge as the anchor of the staff, as he's one of only two pitchers to make more than 10 starts for the B-Mets.

"I have confidence in him," said Binghamton manager Juan Samuel, "that I'm going to get innings from him, and he's going to take you deep into the game."

Collazo doesn't rely on overpowering stuff, but his baseball smarts are what his coaches attribute this year's success to.

In the absence of advanced scouting at the Double-A level, the 23-year-old Florida native uses his own experience to know how to get batters out.

"[If I've played them already], I already know what they're going to be waiting for," said Collazo, "and what they can hit, so I'll just play with that."

Pitching coach Mark Brewer knows that, conversely, the lack of advance scouting on Collazo also works to his advantage.

"You have to know Willie Collazo to even have a chance," said Brewer. "If you just come into an outing that he's in charge of, blind, then he's going to eat you up."

Collazo's 60 strikeouts in 86 innings aren't going to turn many heads. But astonishingly, he's only surrendered 12 walks and merely two home runs over that span.

Perhaps the most important reason for Collazo's success this season is the experience he gained playing for Puerto Rico on this spring's World Baseball Classic. Playing with some of baseball's best have shown him that his game can be of the same caliber.

"It gives you a lot of confidence," Collazo said. "Every time I go out here and pitch, I keep thinking I can do better."

For now, Collazo will have to continue to impress as the rock of the Binghamton rotation. It has become apparent that he is making positive strides and becoming a better pitcher each time he takes the mound.

"I work hard for this, I take it seriously," said Collazo, "and hopefully it's going to pay off in the end."

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