Winter statistics and spring success can be misleading. They can make over-hyped prospects seem legitimate and washed-up veterans seem viable. They can distort the reality of a pitcher like Bartolo Colon. Wednesday night, though, there was no illusion. Colon faced a legitimately dangerous lineup in a regular season game, and he once again exceeded even his own expectations.
“It’s not like he was getting lucky out there (in spring training),” Russell Martin said. “He was making pitches since the beginning of spring. Obviously guys are tuning up and they’re working on things, but not many balls were squared up off him during spring. He was just consistently good, and he just kind of carried it over. It doesn’t always happen, but it happened for him.”
Like he’s said for the past month or so, Colon said he’s been surprised at how well his pitches are working and how effective he’s been. It had been almost 21 months since his last Major League start, and nearly two years since his last Major League win. Colon said there was a time in 2009 that he didn’t think he’d ever pitch again.
At this point, though, Colon is clearly one of the Yankees best rotation options. After the home run to J.P. Arencibia in the second inning Colon retired 12 in row, mostly because he started locating his pitches down in the zone.
“I don’t think it’s amazing at all,” Alex Rodriguez said. “I think he’s just a very, very good pitcher. You saw what he did in ’05 when he won the Cy Young. Bartolo’s just a natural pitcher.”
That might be true, but he’s also 38 years old and after such a long layoff it was natural to wonder whether Colon had anything left. Clearly he does. There are obvious concerns about durability and stamina, but so far, so good. He was good this winter, he was good this spring, and he’s been good through these first few weeks of the regular season. He keeps proving he’s not finished just yet.
“I think he’s done a good job getting himself ready to pitch,” Joe Girardi said. “I think pitching in winter ball really helped him out. He took the initiative. There are guys, you get to a certain age and you say, ‘I’ve done a lot of things in this game.’ But Bartolo still wants to pitch, and I think that’s a big part of it.”
Here’s Martin talking about another good Colon outing.
• Girardi had decided not to use Mariano Rivera, he wanted to avoid Joba Chamberlain and he wanted to keep Rafael Soriano out of the game. When things got a little dicy in the ninth, though, he went to Soriano who picked up his first Yankees save.
• The Soriano situation wasn’t completely out of the question at the beginning of the game. Soriano said Girardi told him pregame that he would pitch the ninth if things got tricky. Soriano knew he was the closer for the day.
• Curtis Granderson has now homered in three consecutive games. The Yankees have homered in 14 of 16 games and have hit 30 home runs this season.
• Despite all the home runs, Girardi was clearly happy to see his team score some runs without going deep tonight. They scored their first five runs without a home run. “We were just putting hits together,” Girardi said. “Sac flies when we had to, moving runners when we had to… It was just good baseball.”
• When Girardi went to the mound to talk to Colon in the seventh inning, he used Rodriguez as the translator. Rodriguez suggests using Robinson Cano next time. “I completely messed up the translation,” Rodriguez said. “I got it an out later and it was too late. Robby’s a better translator than me.” Rodriguez said his mistake wasn’t really drastic — it’s not like Colon asked to come out and Rodriguez said to keep him in — but Rodriguez didn’t say what exactly he got wrong.
• Rodriguez said he felt physically fine. Before he attempted a steal — he was called out, looked safe — Rodriguez said he actually thought about how he should slide to stay safe. “Instincts took over,” he said. Rodriguez said the umpire initially called him safe before calling him out.
• Martin said Colon threw more sliders than changeups, but as always, tonight was mostly fastballs. “Ever since spring, his location has been great and his sinker has been consistently good for the whole time that I’ve caught him,” Martin said.
• Three doubles for Mark Teixeira… Cano extended his hitting streak to 11 games… Martin went 2-for-3 with two RBI… Derek Jeter’s average dropped to 219, Jorge Posada’s to .160.
• There was some joking in the clubhouse after the game about Nick Swisher getting the easiest outfield assist of his life. He threw the ball to Teixeira, who ran to third base to tag out Arencibia who made a base-running blunder.
Associated Press photos