Bartolo Colon has come a long way since the opening day of the Yankees' spring training camp. The 37 year-old righthander was a bargain-basement gamble thrown into the four-way mix for the No. 4 and 5 spots in the starting rotation. Another solid spring showing has almost guaranteed Colon a job in the starting rotation.
On Monday night, Colon allowed one run and two hits in six innings. He threw 62 pitches, struck out five without a walk. Colon has 17 strikeouts and one walk over 15 innings this spring.
Colon, who didn't play last season, was expected to battle it out with 34 year-old Freddy Garcia--who won 12 games last year--and the incumbent Sergio Mitre. Mitre, who has bullpen experience, looks like he will be exiled back to long relief. Garcia, who doesn't have the spring numbers to match Colon, was the early favorite, but it looks like he could be the odd man out. Garcia has until March 29 to ask for his release if he is not added to the roster.
The 267-pound Colon hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009 because of a myriad of physical troubles. He had a remarkable run from 1998-2005, winning 135 games with the Indians, Expos, Angels and White Sox. In 2005, he won 21 games and a Cy Young Award until a series of injuries to his shoulder, knee back and elbow cut off his productivity until 2009.
That was then, this is now believes Yankee manager Joe Girardi. The hefty hurler's fastball was clocked at 90-92 mph and has been recorded as high as 95 so far this March. Good news for the Yankees.
"That's the Bartolo that I remember," said Girardi. "The guy had outstanding command of his fastball, didn't walk people and didn't beat himself. His stuff has been outstanding."
In his four spring training games, Colon is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA. Garcia lags behind at 1-1 with a 5.93 ERA in four games. Garcia's pitches have recently wheezed home in the mid-80's. He said he has nothing to prove by going to the minors.
Colon was a long-shot for the rotation, especially after he arrived in camp 25 pounds overweight. Now he looks like the front-runner, even if the poundage hasn't disappeared. If the veteran starter can toss a fraction of 222 innings he threw during his Cy Young season, the Yankees would feel a lot better about the rotation.
Girardi is hoping Colon can throw the ball every five days. "You have to try to predict," said Girardi. "You don't want to predict, 'I'm only going to get 50 innings out of this guy.' We're predicting that whoever we take can start the whole year."
Looks like the Phillies Cliff Lee was right, the Yankees are getting older.