Retro Colon shuts down Twins
Right-hander looks like old Cy Young self over six innings
CHICAGO -- Bartolo Colon's word apparently is as good as gold, or at the very least, a pretty solid indicator as to how he's going to pitch on a given day.
During his Saturday morning interview session with the media, Ozzie Guillen joked as to how the veteran hurler told the White Sox manager to figuratively bet on him against the Twins later that day. Colon then went out and allowed three hits over six scoreless innings, helping the White Sox claim an 8-0 victory and end a three-game losing streak before 33,935 at U.S. Cellular Field.
After the impressive effort, Colon and Guillen both agreed that it was bench coach Joey Cora who received the Saturday morning message from the starting pitcher. Regardless of the recipient, Colon knew something special was coming.
"As soon as I left my house driving here, I felt fine. I felt good. I was excited," said a smiling Colon, through translator and coaching assistant Omer Munoz. "I was throwing well the whole Spring Training, but I had that feeling today."
"I caught him a lot this spring and I told him if he does what he's been doing in spring, he'll get guys out, because his ball is moving a lot," said White Sox catcher Corky Miller, who chipped in his first multihit game since Sept. 13, 2003, when he was with the Reds. "He knows how to pitch. He's been around a long time. He doesn't have to throw 96 or 97 [mph] to get guys out."
The days of throwing in the high 90s for Colon might be gone, although he continues to build from offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. Yet, Colon's guile and movement were more than enough to subdue a Minnesota offense that scored 12 runs on Friday.
Colon, 35, had pitched once in a big league game since June 17, 2008, but he earned the first victory for a White Sox starter this season by striking out two, walking two and throwing 60 of his 94 pitches for strikes. He also showed a little bit of humor and personality after the victory.
When asked by one reporter as to when was the last time he pitched this well, Colon smiled and told Munoz that it was last Saturday in the final exhibition game against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. That question was amended to focus on only regular-season efforts, but Colon simply thanked the White Sox for showing confidence in him and giving him the chance to prove he still can pitch.
For at least one day, Colon made a believer of the Twins (3-3).
"Well, obviously, he's not throwing with the same velocity he used to throw," said Minnesota catcher Mike Redmond. "We actually came up through the Minor Leagues together.
"He used to throw 96, 97 mph with a big curveball. The curveball is gone, but he still throws strikes. He goes out there and pounds the strike zone. He's 0-1, 0-2 on everybody. With cold weather and not being able to see, it could be a different story down the road. Today he did his job."
Led by two hits apiece from Miller, Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin, with Quentin going deep for the second straight day, the White Sox offense also continued to step forward -- especially in the clutch. After the Sox knocked out just four hits in 29 at-bats on the season with runners in scoring position entering Saturday's fourth inning, Ramirez came through with a single to left off of Francisco Liriano (0-2) to score Wilson Betemit with the game's first run.
During a four-run fifth inning, the White Sox (2-3) picked up two more hits with runners in scoring position. They also benefited from bases-loaded walks issued consecutively by Liriano to Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko.
Ramirez's two singles were his first two hits of the year, breaking a 0-for-14 funk to begin 2009. He also drove home two, and admitted a bit of relief in making that first connection.
"Absolutely, it felt good getting that hit. I've been working hard on adjusting," said Ramirez, through translator and director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "I was pressing and anxious to get that first hit."
Minnesota provided a seventh-inning scare by loading the bases with two outs against reliever Octavio Dotel, trailing by just five runs at the time. But Matt Thornton broke Alexi Casilla's bat and retired him on a weak grounder to first to end the inning, and the White Sox scored three in the bottom of the frame.
Saturday's star still was Colon, who pitched better than pretty much anyone expected. Well, anyone except Colon, who predicted his success before throwing the first pitch.
"That's the story of the day," Konerko said. "With the way he threw and everyone questioning how he was going to be coming out of the gate from spring, he threw great today. That's a big sign for us that he had a good day. We are going to need him as we go."
"It's always said, command, strikes keep you in the game," Guillen said. "It was amazing. We needed that game from him."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.