Bartolo Colon has at least as many professional baseball lives as we hear that cats have for everyday walking around. He has made more comebacks than Sugar Ray Leonard, and I thought the former boxing champ had retired the trophy.
I thought Colon was out of baseball, out of shape, unwanted. Yet there he was on the mound in Tokyo the other day representing the Oakland A’s against the Seattle Mariners, and whipping those Seattle batters into shape as if he had never had a lull in his career.
First start of a season in which I thought he would have none of them, and Colon throws eight innings, gives up three hits, and one run, earned, and strikes out six. A doff of the cap to Senor Colon, for sure. And maybe to Billy “Moneyball” Beane, too, for taking a chance on him.
This marks Colon’s eighth Major League stop, counting the Chicago White Sox twice. He is a former Cy Young Award winner, but he also did not play in 2010. But just when you think Colon has left the stage for good, the Dominican right-hander always seems to surface. He has not put together too many great complete years lately, but as he did versus the Mariners, he does seem good for some impressive spot work.
You’ve got to admire Colon. He grew up in poverty in a house that had no electricity in Altamira, D.R., and he made good. He will turn 39 in May, yet hangs in there. He broke into the majors with the Cleveland Indians in 1997 and although he may have lost a couple of miles per hour off his fastball, he still must possess the savvy to get big-league hitters out. (Though some believe not all of the hitters in the Mariners’ lineup are real major leaguers.)
Here’s an interesting tidbit that I thought could not happen in this well-documented age: a discrepancy over his record. I was checking on Colon’s lifetime pitching won-loss record and one source says he is 162-112 and another says he is 161-113. In any case, Colon really has had only one great season, the 2005 campaign when he captured the American League Cy Young Award with a 21-8 mark. He is a two-time All-Star, but I think teams are scared of his body. Colon stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 265 so despite the fact that he keeps honing his fastball enough to get by no one wants to put too much trust in him for fear that he will eat himself out of the game.
And yet here he is again. The question, as it has been for the last several years, is how long can Colon sustain it. New York Yankees fans swooned over Colon’s work at the beginning of last season, but he ended up 8-10.
Does last season–and this start–mean Colon can pull it all together, but only for brief periods? Will he fade out by the All-Star break and shift from being a regular member of the A’s rotation to a periodic starter? We won’t know until the months pass. Of course, when it comes to Oakland, as the months pass, there probably won’t be much pressure on them or him because the A’s won’t be in the pennant race.