Out of all of the New York Yankees off-season scrap-heap pick-ups, was there a more questionable signing than pitcher Bartolo Colon? The righthander had not pitched since injuring his arm in 2009 and showed up at camp with a body that made Rosie O'Donnell look svelte than the 2005 Cy Young winner he once was. The sight of Colon in a major league camp, never mind pinstripes, must have appeared to be some kind of joke.
Signing the rotund Colon may one of the best moves in an off-season of questionable moves by Yankees GM Brian Cashman. Maybe Yankees bench coach, Tony Pena, should get the credit. After all, it was Pena who phoned Cashman, after seeing Colon in the Dominican Winter League, and recommended bringing the fastballer to spring training and giving him a look-see.
The Yankees signed Colon for the bargain basement price of $900,000 and, while he won't make anyone forget the non-signing of Cliff Lee, he's taken out a little of the sting.
After throwing a masterful complete-game, 4-hit shutout victory over the Oakland A's on Monday, the 38 year-old seems to have found the fountain of youth. And that makes people talk.
How is it a pitcher who's 2009 elbow MRI resembled a pile of pick-up sticks and sat out a full season come back and rebound like that?
Colon has been steady so far this season. He is 4-4 with a 3.14 ERA and has 62 strikeouts with only 15 walks. His fastball is consistently in the mid-90's and even his final throw against the A's was clocked at 95 mph.
The fountain of youth is in Florida and resides in Boca Raton. Dr. Joseph Purita is the orthopedic surgeon who may hold the future of sports medicine in his skillful hands--stem-cell procedures. It could be the new Tommy John surgery and it now has tongues wagging.
Dr. Purita performed the controversial stem-cell procedure on Colon's tattered elbow and shoulder in the Dominican Republic eighteen months ago.
Colon went to Dr. Purita as a last resort for a partially-torn rotator cuff and elbow which constantly sent pain stinging up and down his arm.
The stem-cell operation, headed by Dr. Purita, was a procedure which drew fat (no Colon jokes) and healthy cells from Colon's bone marrow and inserted them into his bum shoulder and elbow.
The doctors claim they did the procedure without Human Growth Hormone--which can be used to hasten the healing.
MLB said Colon is part of an investigation into Dr. Purita's past practice of administering HGH to his patients. Since other major league hurlers are looking into the doctor's procedure, expect more inquiries.
Dr. Purita swears that his team did not use HGH and said he is willing to take a lie-detector test to prove it. He claims Colon wanted to avoid the scrutiny of the MLB substance abuse cops and went through the whole procedure HGH-free.
The Yankees are no strangers to the scandal of HGH. There's a virtual All-Star line-up of Yankees wearing or about to adorn those damaging scarlet letters. Beginning with Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and ending with Roger Clemens. Having the procedure done in the Dominican Republic didn't due anything to silence the truth-seekers
While Cashman said he wasn't aware of the scope of Colon's off-season stem-cell procedure, don't expect the Yankees to open up a can of worms with any investigation regarding Colon's resurgence. They'll take the doctor's words--and supply the polygraph machine.
For now, Colon may be the steal of the season. With Hughes and Nova hurting and A.J. Burnett reverting to his old inconsistent self, Colon finds himself as the #2 starter behind CC Sabathia.
The Yankees know a healthy fastball from a hefty 38 year-old is a valuable, but fragile, commodity and manager Joe Girardi (the heat-miser) will monitor Colon's innings, throws or any other stat he can muster to prolong Colon's health. Girardi will begin by giving Colon an extra day of rest in this rotation.
"You have to be careful, but we have not seen his stuff drop off,' said Girardi.
Whether or not Colon is a freak of nature or a the new Frankenstein of modern medicine is yet to be seen. The re-animated Colon has given the Yankees life for the first two months of the season and, combined with the team's other junk-pile bargain Garcia, have kept the Yankees in the thick of the AL East.