Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bartolo Colon: Yankees' Pound-for-Pound Most Valuable Pitcher

The New York Yankees might have lost Phil Hughes' fastball to "dead arm" but his replacement, Bartolo Colon's right arm is screaming 'It's alive!'

Last night, Colon--who's best years seemed to be over six years ago--continued his unlikely run as the Yankees best comeback story by tossing a beautiful eight-inning gem against the Chicago White Sox.  The hefty righthander allowed one run on seven hits and struck out six lead the Yankees to a 3-1 win and snapping their first two-game losing streak.

The hefty pitcher has been the Yankees most reliable pitcher and the pound-for-pound most valuable starter--literally. 

The big steer of the Yankees staff is still CC Sabathia who--even after slimming down this off-season-- rolls in at a conservative 290 lbs.  Colon, who was never physically mistaken for Randy Johnson even with a blazing fastball and slimming pinstripes, thunders in at 270.  Divide Sabathia's $23 million per year to Colon's $900,000 by their weight and you get $79,310 per pound to $3,333, respectively.  That's a kobe steak at Nobu next to ground chuck; only this hamburger is now being served on a silver platter.

Colon may have found some way to turn back the clock, but it remains to be seen if he can maintain his early season success.  So far this year, he is 2-1with 26 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.77 in 26 innings but there is still a long way to go.

The 37 year-old Colon--who would use skinny jeans as gloves-- had great years through 2005 when he went 21-8 and picked up the Cy Young award as a Los Angeles Angel.  He has been plagued by injuries and trying to pick up the pieces since that fantastic season.

Colon was an off-season pick-up by Brian Cashman's for the Yankees' scrap heap along with Freddy Garcia for minor-league contracts and corned-beef hash-like money.

Colon battled Garcia for the fifth spot in the rotation, but started the year in the bullpen.  Now both pitchers have become more than fill-ins through the first month of the season--especially with Hughes' problems looking more serious than at first thought.  Time will only tell if the two veteran pitchers can hold up for the rest of the season.

If last night was any indication of Colon's rebirth,  things look good for the Yankees.  Colon's fastball reached 96 mph in the eighth inning and he battled a game Mark Buehrle (1-3) for seven innings.  Even White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen--who managed an injured Colon in 2009--was impressed

"Amazing," said Guillen.  "Wow, I can't remember seeing him like this since he was in Cleveland or with the Angels.  His ball was moving great.  I feel proud of him, especially after knowing all the arm issues that he has gone through.  Buehrle was good tonight, but Colon was better."

Except for a few singles by the Sox in the sixth, they could not hit Colon's heater.  The last time the big guy went eight innings was in 2007.

"It's been huge for us," said Joe Girardi.  "Every time he's taken the mound, he's pitched well and given us a real good chance to win--even in games where he came in in long relief and held the other clubs down for us, he's given us a chance to win.  His production has been huge."

Now with Hughes looking at a possible long downtime, the Yankees will be counting on Colon to uphold his end of the rotation for as long as he can.

"I felt pretty happy, my first [start] at Yankee stadium," Colon said through an interpreter.  He believes he is better than ever even if his fastball probably won't reach 98 mph again.  "I can throw more strikes than when I won 21 games," he said.

Those words ain't chopped liver.

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