Thursday, July 14, 2011 Updated: July 15, 3:36 PM ET
Is Colon fairy tale coming to an end?
By Andrew Marchand ESPNNewYork.com
TORONTO -- Russell Martin accused the Toronto Blue Jays of stealing signs. Joe Girardi pointed to the lack of defense.
"I don't blame anybody," said Colon, who lasted a grand total of two outs, allowing eight runs (three earned) in the New York Yankees' 16-7 loss to the Blue Jays on Thursday. "That was my fault."
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Colon is a large issue -- pun totally intended -- for the second half. Is midnight approaching on the Colon fairy tale? He ran gingerly to cover first base Thursday, admitting he was afraid to test the left hamstring that kept him on the DL last month.
Colon played down the injury, but Girardi plans to sit him down Friday and ask him to honestly assess whether his left leg is well enough to continue to pitch. It is now two straight starts in which he hasn't looked right. Last start, he gave up his most hits all season. This start, it was his most runs.
Not a good trend for a pitcher, who, after Thursday, has made 10 total second-half starts since 2005.
The second issue that is coming around the bend and could grow larger than Colon is a Hot Button special: Is Eduardo Nunez fit to play third efficiently enough in Alex Rodriguez's five- to six-week absence?
Colon might have allowed only three first-inning runs if Nunez could have properly gauged the Rogers Centre infield. A two-out chopper from J.P. Arencibia left Nunez in the no-man's land between the dirt square around third and the artificial turf.
"You don't play on many artificial turf [fields] in the minors," Girardi said.
Yes, but Nunez seems capable of making errors on any surface.
He has a team-worst 11 on the season and, at this point, might be the Nate Robinson of baseball: a guy who excites the fan base in short bursts but is exposed with extended playing time.
Girardi didn't want anyone to overdo it on the Nunez angle. Maybe Nunez will right the ship. He is a smart guy, who wanted to be a doctor, like his mother, if he weren't a baseball player.
He admits the errors early in the season weighed on his confidence.
Bartolo Colon couldn't make it out of the first inning Thursday versus the Blue Jays.
"Now, I feel great," Nunez said.
When Nunez misplayed a high popup in the second -- ruled a double -- it put a man on second and allowed Martin to take advantage of the Jays.
Martin said Colon's stuff hasn't looked exactly the same the past two starts compared to earlier in the season. However, Martin didn't think it helped that when Blue Jays were on second, they looked in at Martin's nicely manicured fingers and relayed the signs.
"I didn't pick it up it until after that [first] inning was over," Martin said.
The Jays were tilting their heads toward third for a fastball and then to second for an off-speed pitch, he said. Martin seemed to think the balls hit hard off Colon came with RSVP notes.
"I'm not blaming them for anything," Martin said. "If they are smart enough to figure it out and use it to their advantage. It is one of those things you don't really talk about, but it is a part of baseball."
In the second, following the Nunez misplay with Aaron Hill up, Martin changed up the signs on the Jays.
"Next pitch, he swings at a curveball that is like 52 feet," Martin said. "It is just an easier game when you know what is coming."
Martin said he was "99 percent" sure that is what happened.
Nobody is 100 percent certain about Colon. In his start prior to the All-Star break, he gave up a season-worst 10 hits and five runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Rays. On Thursday night, it was a season-worst eight runs (three earned). Prior to Thursday, Colon had allowed three first-inning runs all season.
"It is hard to figure out that start," Girardi said.
The manager is right. Still, he is going to investigate it further. On Friday, he is going to call Colon to the principal's office to see whether that hamstring is really bothering him. When asked what he will tell his manager, Colon said he will say that, as of Thursday night, he feels good enough.
The Yankees still should, too, because even with Colon's and Nunez's possible issues, they lead the wild card by 4 1/2 games, although they trail the Red Sox by 1 1/2 in the American League East. This gives them a cushion, and gives Colon and Nunez time to figure it out.
NOTES:Andruw Jones had two homers and four RBIs. Both of Jones' homers came off lefty Jo-Jo Reyes. Jones has six homers all year. Half of them have been off Reyes. ... The Blue Jays had 20 hits and no homers. The last time the Yankees gave up 20-plus hits and no home runs in a game of nine innings or fewer was July 14, 1934, at Detroit (lost 12-11), according to ESPN Stats & Information. ... The eight runs the Yankees allowed are the most since June 18, 2000, against the White Sox. ... It is the first time the Yankees have lost their first game after the break since 2001. ... Curtis Granderson had his eighth triple, besting his total for all of last season.