The Big-Time Comeback of Bartolo Colon

After going 21-8 for the Angels in 2005 at the age of 32, it looked like Bartolo Colon’s career might be over. He had become the first Angels’ Cy Young Award winner in 41 years, but in the 2005 playoffs, he suffered a partially torn rotator cuff, and followed his finest career year with a 1-5 record and 5.11 ERA over only 10, 2006 appearances. There was no 2007 comeback, with Colon’s ERA rising to 6.34, as he won only six times that next season. He still hung on, though, with four different teams over his next four years, going 25-26 over seasons in Boston, Chicago (White Sox), New York (Yankees), and then Oakland. That was actually over a five year period, as he did not pitch in 2010, having undergone an experimental stem cell transplant in his pitching shoulder.

His 2012 season in Oakland showed some improvement, despite a 50-game suspension for failing a test for synthetic testosterone. He was paid $2 Million by the A’s for 2012, and he was rewarded with a $3 M contract to stay in Oakland a second season, in 2013.

Bartolo Colon pitching for the Angels, c. 2005

Bartolo Colon pitching for the Angels, c. 2005

Last night against the Angels, the A’s defeated the Angels 6-4, as 2013 All-Star Colon raised his won-lost record to an astounding 14-3, tying Max Scherzer and Matt Moore for the major league lead in victories. The now 40-year-old Colon did see his ERA balloon from 2.52 to to 2.54, as he allowed two runs over six innings.

Colon has been through an amazing few years, changing teams seven times since 2002, undergoing a couple of major surgeries, plus his suspension, and now becoming a poster boy for experimental stem cell surgery. He no longer throws in the mid-to-high 90s, but he has added a two-seamer, a slider, and an effective change used against lefties, and with a measure of health, he has now become a winner again for the first time in close to a decade.

There aren’t a lot of comebacks like that in baseball, certainly not among 40-year-old pitchers. Oakland manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young deserve a lot of credit for his resurgence, and their efforts may well have made the difference in how far the A’s go this post season. When Colon was an Angel, he was not just a workhorse, but a clutch, big game performer. The kind of guy who you want as your number one starter in a World Series.

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