Few believed that Bartolo Colon, who signed a minor-league free-agent deal in spring training, could be this good. But the 37-year-old, 265-pound righthander continued to prove the doubters wrong Wednesday night, pitching a gem in the Yankees' 3-1 win over the White Sox.
After Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer off lefty Mark Buehrle in the first inning, Colon's ability to wiggle out of trouble protected the lead. He allowed only one earned run and seven hits in eight innings, striking out six and walking only one.
Through an interpreter, Colon said, "It's my first game at Yankee Stadium. I'm really happy.''
Late in the game, he hit 96 mph. "I'm not really surprised,'' he said. "The more I pitch, the better.''
Joe Girardi is used to seeing Colon's velocity improve as the game goes on. "It's kind of been a trademark his whole career,'' he said. "He has an extra gear.''
Colon (2-1) has a 2.77 ERA after allowing only 23 hits and seven walks and striking out 30 in 302/3 innings. "Anytime he takes the mound he's pitched well and given us a chance to win,'' Girardi said. "His production has been huge.
"He was the biggest surprise of camp for me. I knew what he used to be, but he hadn't pitched for a while.''
"Bartolo showed up today? When I had Bartolo, he never showed up at the ballpark," Guillen joked. Colon pitched for Guillen for the White Sox in 2009, when he went 3-6 in 12 games before being sidelined by injuries.
After the game, an impressed Guillen said, "Amazing . . . wow. I can't remember seeing him like that since he was in Cleveland or with the Angels. His ball was moving great. But I feel proud of him, especially after knowing all the arm issues that he has gone through. Buehrle was good, but Colon was better.''
Colon (2-1, 2.77 ERA) cruised, but Guillen watched most of the game from inside the clubhouse. Carlos Quentin doubled just out of Andruw Jones' reach and off the leftfield wall with two outs in the first. But Colon struck out Paul Konerko looking on a 94-mph fastball to end the inning. Guillen immediately got in the face of plate umpire Todd Tichenor, who ejected Guillen for his tirade.
Shortly thereafter, the manager tweeted from the clubhouse: "This one going to cost me a lot money this is patetic [sic]."
Buehrle (1-3) allowed three earned runs and six hits. He walked his first batter, Derek Jeter, before Alex Rodriguez blooped a two-out single to shallow right. But the lefty's biggest mistake was leaving an 87-mph fastball over the plate for Cano, who lined it into the rightfield seats. It was the sixth home run for the Yankees' RBI leader, who has 18.
Perhaps Colon's most impressive feat was working out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the second. But the White Sox tagged him for a run in the sixth on three straight singles.
Mariano Rivera picked up his eighth save with a 1-2-3 ninth.