If someone had told you back in March that Bartolo Colon, after not being healthy enough to pitch a full season in the big leagues since 2005, would still be an important part of the Yankees pitching rotation in September, you would have been justified in thinking either that someone was crazy, or the Yankees would be hopelessly out of the pennant race.
But Colon is still here and the Yankees are still on track to make the playoffs, even if their 2-0 loss to the Orioles today in the first game of a day-night oubleheader dropped them to 2-1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East.
And the next time he takes the ball, on Friday against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, it will be Sept. 9 and Colon will have pitched more innings (138-2/3 after today) than he had in the 2008 and 2009 seasons combined. (Colon did not pitch in the majors in 2010).
Despite losing his third decision in a row, Colon looked a lot more like the pitcher who amazed the Yankees in the first half od the season than the one who had posted a 7.94 ERA in his last two starts. Colon worked 7-2/3 innings, allowed two runs on seven hits, walked none, struck out four and hit 95 on the gun on his 103rd and final pitch of the day.
"I was throwing every pitch I had today,'' Colon said. "My sinker was my best pitch. I threw it a lot. And my slider was helping me a lot, too.''
After two previous sub-par outings after getting an extra day's rest due to the Yankees' temporary six-man rotation, Colon was back to working on five days rest today, a change he said he welcomes.
"I feel better going every five days,'' he said. "I'm a little older but I've been going on five days my whole career. But if they want to give me an extra day, I'll take it.''
Before the game Joe Girardi said that this would likely be the last time through for the six-man rotation; after A.J. Burnett's start in Boston on Wednesday, the Yankees would reduce the staff by one pitcher. Everyone has a guess as to who that pitcher will be, but no one is doubting who it will not be:
Bartolo Colon, who will soon be pitching in his first September ballgame in nearly three years.