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Bartolo Colon’s First Start As a 38-Year-Old Is a Great One

On a list of headlines we wouldn't have expected to write before the season started, the one you see here falls somewhere between "Jorge Posada Triples Twice in One Game" and "Nick Swisher Uses Mind Control to Steal Home Run." But there Colon was yesterday, all 38 years and (officially) all 265 pounds of him, breezing through the A's lineup.

Colon shut out Oakland yesterday, striking out six, walking none, and allowing just four hits in the 5–0 win. Coming out of spring training, Colon wasn't even in this team's rotation. Now, he leads all Yankees starters in strikeouts per nine innings, WHIP, and has recorded a quality start in six of his eight starts. (His 4.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio, by the way, is fourth in the American League.)

You'll recall Joe Girardi's decision back in spring training, when the final starting job came down to Colon and Freddy Garcia. Colon had impressed in the spring, but his time away from the mound — he hadn't pitched since 2009 — cost him when the post-spring-training rotation was finalized. Garcia didn't exactly dazzle last season, but at least he threw 157 innings for the White Sox. His ceiling may not have been as high as Colon's, but he was considered the safer bet to take the ball every five days, over the course of the long season. Here's what Girardi said, before the final rotation spot was settled:

"Bart didn't pitch last year so if you start talking innings, will there be a point where innings catch up to him during the course of the season?"

That was a reasonable concern, of course. We'll also quote again from Baseball Prospectus:

Only three age-35-plus pitchers have managed to last as many as 100 innings as a starter after spending a season (or most of a season) away from the game, and two of those -- Bert Blyleven and Pedro Martinez -- are headed for the Hall of Fame.

Colon — who turned 38 a week ago today — is at 66 and a third innings right now, and so far, he's been everything the Yankees could have hoped for. (Perhaps it's no surprise that a doctor who assisted in the medical procedure Colon underwent last year — the one baseball is investigating — said last week that ten other pitchers have expressed interest in the treatment.) Colon has become an important part of this team's rotation, and he says he feels strong both physically and mentally. How long that lasts will go a long way toward determining the stability of this rotation.

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images