First Pitch: From folk hero to enemy

May, 26, 2012
5/26/12
7:00
AM ET
Bartolo Colon was the unlikeliest Yankee success story of 2011, a roly poly 38-year-old with a mysteriously rebuilt arm who came out of nowhere firing 94 mph heat on the corners for the first half of the season.

Bartolomania gripped Yankee Stadium every five days last year -- and then, suddenly, it was over, the chubby little guy's effectiveness gone by September and no spot for him on the postseason roster in October. And during the pre-Hiroki Kuroda/Michael Pineda offseason, when the Yankees were pitching-deprived, they made no effort to lure Colon back for one more try.

But he caught on with the Athletics, his eighth major-league team in 15 seasons, and had a great April, pitching eight innings of one-run ball against the Mariners in Tokyo in the second game of the season, and throwing two scoreless games -- one of seven innings against the Mariners and another of eight innings against the Angels. At the end of the month, his ERA was 2.53.

But the decline that set in after the All-Star break last year has already shown signs of surfacing in this year. Colon has lost two of three in May, his ERA has risen to 4.09, and in one of those starts he couldn't even get out of the third inning.

So it will be interesting to see how Colon handles the Yankees today, and vice versa. It's not like it will be an emotional homecoming; at this point in his career, Colon is a pure mercenary, and his demeanor last season was very much that of a hired gun.

The last time the Yankees faced him, on July 6, 2007, they strafed him for seven runs in two innings when Colon was an Angel. His career record against the Yankees is 4-5 with a 6.07 ERA in 12 career starts.

But when Colon is on, he is a tough opponent for just about anyone. And his last time out, a five-inning stint against the Giants, was his best performance in a month. It is more than possible, maybe even likely, that Colon will pump himself up for a big game today.

The Question: Considering what the Yankees pitching staff has gone through this season, do you think it would have been worth it to take a chance on Colon one more time this season?

Up Now: A bevy of blog items from last night's 6-3 win, including Ivan Nova's gopher problem, Mark Teixeira's unconventional test of his bronchial passages, and the hitting advice Nick Swisher got from his grandma.

Coming soon: Another fine What2Watch4, and blogs from the pregame clubhouse, which opens at 12:30 p.m. New York time. CC Sabathia (5-2, 3.78) faces Colon in this afternoon's game, first pitch at 4:05 p.m.

Question No. 2: Even though the story has been debunked, do you think it would help or hurt the Yankees if Hal Steinbrenner decided to sell the team? Let us know, and as always, thanks for reading.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146