The season is very young. Bartolo Colon is not. But in his Mets debut, Colon -- he'll be 41 next month -- Wednesday night was being asked to provide ballast to an increasingly lightweight pitching staff of theoretically developing stars.
His pudgy, 260-pound contours aside, the 17th-year major-leaguer was unable to bring enough heft in a 5-1 loss to the Nationals.
At least Colon didn't hurt his arm, as per the disease that seems to be spreading among the Mets' pitchers. Instead, after three solid innings, he experienced a steady diet of Washington offense.
Back-to-back doubles by Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche brought the Nationals into a 1-1 tie in the fourth. In the fifth, Ian Desmond and winning pitcher Gio Gonzalez walloped long solo home runs. By the time Colon was lifted after six innings, down 3-1, he had been touched for nine hits and three runs. Not so terrible.
"I felt great,'' Colon said through an interpreter, "and I thought I pitched very well.''
He did agree with manager Terry Collins' observation that he was leaving too many pitches high in the zone.
The result was a lot of fly balls, five of which were chased down in the wide Citi Field pastures by swift centerfielder Juan Lagares, whose legs yielded a quick run in the first with a leadoff triple followed by David Wright's sacrifice fly.
Lagares' two-out double in the fifth appeared capable of scoring Ruben Tejada, who had singled, from first base. But Tejada, still upright when tagged, was thrown out easily by Bryce Harper.
"He has to slide, yes,'' Collins said of Tejada, but guessed there was "some confusion'' about aspects of the new rule against home-plate collisions with catchers.
Mets batters, who struck out 18 times in Monday's season opener, whiffed another 13 times. They produced only three hits, all off Gonzalez, who struck out six in six innings and walked only one.
"Had great off-speed stuff to keep you off balance, threw strikes and worked quick,'' Curtis Granderson said of Gonzalez. The former Yankee was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and remains hitless after his first two games as a Met. "And he helped himself with a big hit.''
Against Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard and Craig Stammen, the Mets were 0-for-9, with a walk. The Mets' own bullpen, in the persons of Gonzalez Germen and Kyle Farnsworth, allowed two more runs and four more hits.
It may be too soon for the Mets to rail in defiance at the unbearable cruelty of the baseball gods -- over injuries, which include leftfielder Chris Young's exit after one inning because of an ongoing quadriceps problem -- or for Mets fans to conclude that general manager Sandy Alderson's 90-win goal is a function of stars in his eyes.
"Only two games in,'' Collins said, "it's not anything to show the white flag over.''
Colon, who was 18-6 with a 2.65 earned run average last season with Oakland, was signed for two years at $20 million, having already extended his career beyond reason after missing the 2010 season with shoulder and elbow problems.
But, really, the season is very young. It's just the Mets' disappointments -- the false starts, the unrealized optimism -- that feel so old.