Let’s get one thing straight: Bartolo Colon is out of shape. In 2009, he was listed at 5’11”, 245 lbs. He was out of shape then, but he has since managed to pack on even more weight for the upcoming season. Ballooning to a robust 270 lbs, the 37 year-old journeyman hopes to make the Yankees starting rotation.
Originally signed by Cleveland back in 1993, Colon has played for five teams in the past nine years. His most recent stint for the White Sox produced underwhelming results. Coming off of surgery to remove bone chips from the elbow in his pitching arm, Colon compiled a 3-6 record and a 4.19 ERA.
Most notably, though, was his decline in strikeouts. Over his career he has averaged over seven strikeouts per nine innings (SO/9), but in 2009, his SO/9 was down to 5.5. Colon was also giving up long balls at an alarming rate. During his Cy Young Award-winning season in 2005, opposing batters took him yard on average once every 33 at-bats. But his last season in the majors saw batters teeing off, smacking one homerun every 19 at-bats.
What does Colon have left? What can he offer? Well, to the Yankees, he might be quite the asset. Since Andy Pettitte announced his retirement earlier this month, the Yankees’ starting five suddenly seems pretty thin. The only safe bet is C.C. Sabathia, and after that, the skill level takes a sharp drop. AJ Burnett, who used to terrorize the Yankees and other AL East teams while he played in Toronto, suddenly can’t miss the bats of opposing hitters. Phil Hughes had a hot start in 2010, but tapered off and later imploded, losing two key games in the ALCS to Texas. The rest of the possible rotation is composed of young guns and unproven starters.
The best possible scenario I can see is that Colon earns the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation and acts as an inning eater. There’s no doubt that this guy is a workhorse; 200+ inning seasons used to be his bread and butter. As long as he can keep his ERA around the 4.00 mark, the still-potent Yankee offense should be able to provide him with ample run support.
The worst possible scenario is that he simply can’t keep up with the rigors of an entire MLB season. Colon needs to lose weight and get in better shape if he hopes to make 25-30 starts in 2011. It just seems like a long shot, since he has only averaged 64 innings over his past four seasons in the majors. I expect him to be in the starting rotation to start the year, but I doubt he’ll be there by the All-Star break.