May 24 – Happy Birthday Bartolo Colon
I remember the first and only time I saw Bartolo Colon pitch live. It was a late season night game in 2000 at Yankee Stadium. The only Yankee hit he allowed that evening was an eighth inning single by Luis Polonia who was then immediately erased on a double play ground ball. I know he had at least a dozen strikeouts that night as he bested Roger Clemens and threw a complete game shutout. When I walked into Yankee Stadium that evening, I was looking forward to watching one of the best pitchers in baseball perform. As I left that evening, I realized I had just witnessed two.
Colon came up with the Indians in 1997 and spent his first five-plus seasons pitching for Cleveland. Just before the trading deadline of the 2002 season, the Indians decided to trade the Dominican right-hander to Montreal for four prospects including Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore. His record was 10-4 before the trade and he went 10-4 after it, giving Colon his first 20-victory season in the big leagues. Knowing that Colon would be a free agent following the 2003 season and realizing they could never sign him, Montreal traded him to the White Sox. He pitched one year in the Windy City became a free agent and signed a four-year, $50 million deal to pitch for the Angels. He looked like a bargain after the first two seasons of that contract during which he won 39 games including his second 20-victory season and the AL Cy Young Award in 2005. But he tore his rotator cuff pitching against the Yankees in the 2005 playoffs and he spent the next five years recovering from that injury and trying to regain his form.
In January of 2011, the Yankees signed him and told him he could compete for the fourth and fifth spots in the Yankee rotation. He won neither but pitched well enough in spring training to start the year as New York’s long reliever. When Phil Hughes fell apart last April, Colon took his spot in the rotation and pitched very well. By July 2 of last year his record was 6-3 and his ERA just 2.88. He would fade down the stretch and not get re-signed by the Yankees after the 2011 postseason, but I for one will always be grateful for Bartolo Colon’s contribution to that year’s Yankee team.
He shares his May 24th birthday with this former Yankee catcher named “Ellie.” No not that “Ellie.”