Bartolo Colon healthy, eager to pitch for A's
Bartolo Colon had no idea how he would bounce back from a stem-cell procedure that saved his career.
Two years ago, fat and bone marrow stem cells were collected from Colon and injected into his troublesome right elbow and shoulder in an innovative and unproven technique. Colon had no idea how it would turn out, but he responded and spent 2011 with the Yankees.
''I was a little bit nervous,'' he said in Spanish. ''I didn't know what the result would be.''
Now, Colon is getting a new start back in the AL West with the Oakland Athletics, whose pitchers and catchers reported to spring training Saturday.
The fact he is pitching another season with a fresh arm? ''Incredible,'' he says.
Colon received a handshake and hug from new teammate and outfielder Jonny Gomes after completing his physical. The pitcher proclaimed himself healthy and appreciative of another shot at age 38.
''He continues at his age to be a power pitcher,'' manager Bob Melvin said following a four-hour meeting of the A's brass. ''He's a cagey veteran, he knows what he has to do each and every year to make some adjustments to keep on top of his game like he has. ... We felt he was the right fit here based on the guys we had a chance to get.''
The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner went 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA in 29 appearances and 26 starts in his 14th big league season after missing all of 2010.
''My health is good,'' he said. ''No problems. I'm ready to play for Oakland.''
Colon signed a $2 million, one-year contract last month to join a rotation that lost two top pitchers this offseason. All-Star left-hander Gio Gonzalez got traded to the Washington Nationals, while Trevor Cahill was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Closer Andrew Bailey is also gone, sent to Boston in late December.
Colon said he will embrace being a veteran presence for the young A's, whose roster still could change over the next week. The A's are considering signing slugger Manny Ramirez, who would have to sit out the first 50 games for his second violation of baseball's drug policy.
''Definitely possibilities,'' Melvin said. ''I'm not certain that we're done on what our roster's going to look like. I think we've shown this offseason that we're not afraid to make some moves.''
Gomes, who lives in Arizona during the offseason, showed up early to get going - and make a few more introductions for those he didn't meet at FanFest last month.
''This is the time of year you want to get out of the batting cage and get out of the weight room and put some cleats on,'' Gomes said. ''You know your feet are going to hurt and your calves are going to cramp.''
Everybody knows there's plenty to get done in an abbreviated spring. Oakland opens the season with two games in Japan next month against the Mariners, who started at spring training a week ago. The A's opted to wait.
Melvin said he would typically try to get position players 60 to 65 at-bats during Cactus League play before the season starts, but ''we're not going to try to cram that into 21 games.''
The emphasis will be to get as much work done each day while minimizing players' time standing around between drills.
''Oh, we're rusty,'' reliever Jerry Blevins halfway joked while signing autographs for a couple of diehard fans in the bleachers after playing Frisbee at Phoenix Municipal Stadium with 6-foot-6 starting candidate Tyson Ross.
Dallas Braden is upbeat entering the spring. Braden, who threw a perfect game on May 9, 2010, against Tampa Bay, is encouraged by his progress following surgery May 17 to a repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder.
While Braden is ahead of schedule in his recovery, his best guess is that he will be ready to return in mid-April or shortly thereafter. Melvin said it could be early May for Braden, who will be treated cautiously.
Braden threw his fourth bullpen of the winter Thursday and is slated for another on Monday. He praised the training staff for being ''lights out.''
''Just being able to throw a baseball pain-free has been tremendous,'' Braden said. ''The last two years I had been throwing in pain, not with pain but in pain. That's tough to do. I take my bullpens very seriously. To be getting back to a position where I can learn again from my work, that's Christmas for me. Everything points to positive.''
Braden has some other business to attend to this spring. He wears No. 51, and that has been the jersey number for new outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban defector who this past week agreed to terms on a $36 million, four-year contract.
''For $35.5 million he can have No. 51,'' Braden said with a chuckle. ''I'm going to put that on his locker. I don't know if we go much lower than that. Do you really want No. 51?''
Perhaps Colon will be up for a swap as he is No. 52. He has surprised even himself considering he's still pitching after all the years of injury problems.
''It is a surprise for me,'' he said. ''I didn't know I was going to come back and pitch.''
Melvin is confident in Colon, saying, ''If he's pitching at the level he is at this age he's doing something right.''