OAKLAND -- In the last 11 months, Bartolo Colon has gone from being the hottest pitcher in the A's rotation to being banned from baseball for 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs to being the hottest pitcher in the A's rotation.
Remarkably, at age 40, Colon will be at Citi Field on Tuesday for his third All-Star game. He earned the honor with his 12-3 record and 2.70 ERA. But having started for the A's on Sunday, he has given up his roster spot to a teammate, closer Grant Balfour.
"He's basically pitched the same way all year," manager Bob Melvin said of Colon. "He goes deep in the game, he doesn't allow many runs, and he gives us a chance to win."
Melvin left out one thing. Colon does it while basically throwing one pitch. a two-seam fastball that is precise yet capable of great movement.
"Any guy who short-arms it with that added movement is going to power on you pretty quick," St. Louis third baseman David Freese said after facing Colon last month. "He's just movement, movement and more movement. You know you are going to get a heater, and yet it's still difficult to find the barrel (of the bat with the ball)."
Colon, the 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner while winning 21 games for the Angels, doesn't deny that most everything he throws will be the two-seam fastball. But he mixes up location and isn't afraid to throw a four-seamer up to 96 mph a couple or three times a game.
And he can change speeds as needed.
"He really beats up the strike zone," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said after watching seven innings of Colon at PNC Park last week. "He throws as many strikes as any pitcher that we've seen all year or will see all year. He pitches to his strengths. He can pitch tight, he can stay away. He can elevate when he wants to. Most of it's done in the strike zone.
"There are specific areas that he's able to go to and stay there. Not that he throws it in a teacup, but there are times where he throws it in a teacup. He can stay in a spot. Until you hit him out of that spot, he can stay in that spot."
Looking at Colon and his round body, one doesn't get the sense he's an athlete. And there are those who think he might be benefiting from a chemical advantage. Last year, he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for synthetic testosterone. This year, his name has been linked to a Florida anti-aging clinic that reportedly has supplied performance-enhancing drugs to several major leaguers.
The A's could find out in the next couple of weeks if there will be any consequences from the latest suspicions, but until then he'll continue to control the running game reasonably well and throw strikes. In 19 starts, he has walked only 15, and he fields his position.
Seattle manager Eric Wedge says Colon is a master from 60 feet, 6 inches.
"He knows how to pitch; he recognizes swings," Wedge said. "He does as good a job with his fastball, his movement, where it starts and where it finishes, as anybody in the league."