When spring training began, it would have been difficult to find anybody who believed Bartolo Colon would land a spot in the Yankees' season-opening rotation. Now, it's hard to find somebody who thinks he won't make it.I feel like 'fairly large' is something of an understatement, as Colon's rotundity may be more well-known than his actual on the field resume.
Colon has been solid and steady this spring, outpitching his veteran counterpart Freddy Garcia for the final spot in the Bombers' rotation.
The race began as a four-man competition for two spots and is winding down with Ivan Nova all but clinching the No. 4 spot and Sergio Mitre seemingly penciled in as the long reliever.
"I've been pleasantly surprised," Joe Girardi said of Colon. "He is a guy that knew how to compete. We knew that. He was a guy that knew how to be successful. We knew that. But I just didn't know what to expect."
"I know what Freddy is; I've seen it," GM Brian Cashman said. "Bartolo is a little bit more of a newbie in the fact that, all right, this guy is really showing us a lot of good stuff and it's nice to see, but is it enough?
"At some point you take a leap of faith that this guy is going to help us more than that guy. I'm not ready to make that call yet, but we're going to have to make it soon."
Colon made his fourth start of the spring Monday night here. In his first three starts, Colon allowed three runs over nine innings, giving up eight hits and one walk, striking out 12. He also threw 79 pitches in a simulated game last Tuesday, giving Girardi a close-up look at his stuff.
"I don't remember the sink on his ball that he has now," Girardi said. "I don't remember his changeup being that good and I don't remember his breaking ball being that good. I remember him being more of a power pitcher that could locate. Now he can do the other things - and still locate - and he's been effective."
The Yankees took a low-risk gamble on the 37-year-old this spring, signing him to a minor-league deal and inviting him to camp. Colon was little more than an afterthought when the spring began, but with each outing, it is clear that he has some life left in his right arm.
"It is impressive; when you watch him, it's pretty simple how he does it," Girardi said. "He's kind of reinvented himself. He still throws up to 93, but you're not going to see that 97 or 98 we used to see in the seventh and eighth inning."
There are still questions about Colon, most surrounding his bulky 267-pound frame. Colon acknowledged at the start of camp that he was about 25 pounds overweight.
"It is somewhat of a concern because of his stamina and if we get into the dog days, how his body holds up," Girardi said. "It hasn't been cool here and he seems to bounce back well from day to day. In Anaheim, I'm not sure what weight he pitched at, but he was fairly large there, too."
To be perfectly frank, I cannot disagree with this move. Colon has been quite good throughout the Spring, and I believe that the fifth spot should be garnered through merit. While Garcia's recent history is far stronger than Colon's, it isn't as if he has been light's out of late - as semi-tragic as it may sound, the 'what have you done for me lately' mentality would probably lend itself to Colon, on the strength of his strong winter ball and Spring Training performances.
I may not like the fact that Colon will be toeing the rubber every fifth day for the Yankees ... but he's certainly earned the opportunity.