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Bartolo Colon Pitching Like Ace of Yankees Staff


New York Yankees' Bartolo Colon delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Friday, May 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Before we go any further, here’s a relatively painless trivia question to stew over:


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Can you name the two starting Yankees pitchers, listed below, with over 50 innings pitched?

Starter No. 1: (2-2) 3.16 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings pitched.

Starter No. 2: (3-3) 3.47 ERA with 50 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings pitched.

And now this…

During the offseason everybody in the baseball world knew that the New York Yankees were going after a new pitcher.

After falling to the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, the Yankees wanted to rebound like they did in 2009, when they brought in Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett during free agency.

Cliff Lee—a member of the Texas Rangers—was a free agent, and the Yanks made it known that he was their No.1 man.

But instead of following in the footsteps of other big-time free agents who came to the Yankees for the money in the past, Lee spurned the pin-stripes and joined the Phillies.

How were the Yankees going to react to losing such a mega-free agent?

They signed Freddy Garcia. Really? And Bartolo Colon. Egh..right?

Colon—who didn’t play in 2010—signed a minor league deal with the Yanks, while Lee agreed to a five-year $120 million deal with the Phills.

One is mentioned in the same breath as the game’s greats and the other, well, is not even mentioned.

Until now.

Back to the quizz above.

New York Yankees' Bartolo Colon delivers a pitch during the first inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Friday, May 13, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

If you haven’t guess already: Bartolo Colon is starter No. 1 and C.C. Sabathia is second.

So, a guy who didn’t pitch in 2010—and started in only 12 games for the Chicago White Sox in 2009—is out pitching the ace of the Yankees pitching staff.

On Wednesday night, Colon threw his best game in years as the Yankees defeated the Baltimore Orioles in 15 innings at Camden Yards.

After pitching eight scoreless innings, and striking out seven O’s, Mariano Rivera blew the save—and killed Colon’s chance to notch another win in the “left column,” as YES broadcaster Michael Kay likes to say now.

Even more remarkable, the 37-year-old pitcher (who turns 38 on May 24) went through eight innings, only throwing 87 pitches—61 were strikes.

Colon’s signing at the time wasn’t given much attention because the Yankees didn’t even think he was going to make it to the starting rotation. He lost out to Freddy Garcia—another surprise starter—in spring training, mainly because the organization didn’t think Colon could last an entire season pitching every five days.

Although his endurance still remains to be seen, Colon has proven that he has something left in the tank, and can even hit 95 MPH on the radar gun late in games.

The fact that he can keep his fastball in the mid-90s has been the most surprising aspect of Colon’s return to baseball. Meanwhile Major League Baseball is investigating Colon for a stem-cell operation he underwent in the Dominican Republic last year.

Nobody knows how that will turn out, but it apparently didn’t affect Colon going into Wednesday’s extra-inning win over Baltimore.

He lowered his ERA last night to 3.16, which puts him well below the league average of 3.82.

The former American League Cy Young winner has been consistent so far. His most disappointing game came against the Texas Rangers, when he gave up nine hits and five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings pitched at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

during the XXXX inning of a baseball game Monday, May 16, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Because Freddy Garcia began the season as the Yankees No. 5 starter, Colon was designated to the bullpen. He didn’t have to sit for long, though, because he became Phil Hughes’ security blanket after the Yankees’ young pitcher struggled to start the season, and ended up on the disabled list.

Colon has taken over for Hughes, and the Yankees couldn’t be more relieved.

They’ve struggled in recent weeks, and were fortunate that the Orioles didn’t get a big hit in extra innings to break the 1-1 tie.

The Yankees were disappointed that they couldn’t land Lee, and probably a little embarrassed, too.

But general manager Brian Cashman deserves some credit for signing Colon, and Garcia too for that matter, because both pitchers have given the Yankees productive innings.

If the Yankees had an All-Star pitcher right now, it would probably be Colon. Of course, the question is: will he make it through the rest of the season?

But for now, all the Yankees can do is be thankful that a guy with a minor league deal is pitching like an ace.

Maybe the world is coming to an end…

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