Bartolo Colon strong in return from DL

NEW YORK -- The Yankees activated starter Bartolo Colon off the disabled list to start against the Mets on Saturday and sent starter Brian Gordon down to Triple-A, manager Joe Girardi announced before the Yankees beat the Mets 5-2 in the middle game of the Subway Series at Citi Field.

Colon threw six scoreless innings, giving up five hits, striking out six and walking none to earn the victory in his first start since June 11, when he strained his left hamstring while running to cover first base.

"I feel really good," Colon said through an interpreter. "The more important thing is the team wins the game."

Colon has been one of the Yankees' best starters this season, and he upped his record to 6-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.88 on Saturday. Girardi had said before the game that Colon's pitch count was about 80-85, and Colon ended up throwing 80, 56 for strikes, in limiting the Mets to four singles and a double.

"That's as good as I've ever seen him," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "And I've seen him really good."

At the halfway point of the season, Colon has emerged as a legitimate ace to complement CC Sabathia in the Yankees rotation. He's struck out 78 batters in 84.1 innings and has only walked 18 batters spanning those innings. In four of his 11 starts, he's left the game without giving up a run and is the only Yankees starter to throw a shutout.

"I'd put him up against anyone right now," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "Hopefully the hamstring thing is behind him and he's going to be healthy for us for the remainder of the season. He's huge to have in our rotation because we need top-line pitchers in our division."

With Colon's return, the Yankees opted to send Gordon, who had made two starts in Colon's place, down to Triple-A. Girardi said because Gordon hadn't pitched since June 22 that the team thought it was better to stretch him out with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in case he is needed in the future.

"There's a little disappointment," Gordon said. "This is the position you want to be, this is it, this is the big leagues, this is what every player plays for and I got to live it for a couple of weeks with the Yankees and it was unbelievable."

In his two starts with the Yankees, Gordon was 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA, pitching well against Texas in his pinstripes debut and struggling on the road at Cincinnati. Gordon had been a career minor leaguer whom the Yankees signed after Gordon opted out of his contract with the Phillies, as he had been pitching well for their Triple-A team. He spent 15 seasons in the minor leagues, shifting from an outfielder to a pitcher, with three games in Texas in 2008 as his only prior major league experience.

Gordon said he was pleased with his performance as a Yankee and he felt he was able to command his pitches. He added that he would like to be in the rotation with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and is going to work on speeding up his curveball, as well as some other minor tweaks.

The 32-year-old hopes he opened some eyes in his short time in the Bronx, which lasted just over two weeks.

"I can't sit on that disappointment for too long because ideally there's a lot of season left and still a lot of time to help these guys down the road," Gordon said. "Go down there, do the best I can, do well and help Scranton out and hopefully something might open up here later this year and be ready for it. I'm not necessarily sure it's a negative."

With right-hander Phil Hughes (shoulder) nearly ready to come off the DL, the Yankees could soon have six healthy starters. So they have a decision to make about their rotation. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia seem the likely candidates to get pulled, or New York could go with a six-man rotation for a while. The Yankees have not yet determined which course they'll take.

Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.