TOKYO -- The revival act of Bartolo Colon has been riveting baseball theater, and it looks like it's been extended to a new season. And even a new continent.
The burly right-hander, who only two years ago looked like he would have to pack up his 150-plus wins and Cy Young Award and call it a heck of a career, brought his rejuvenated right shoulder over to Japan for Opening Series 2012, rested his Oakland A's teammates firmly on it, and delivered exactly what the club needed before boarding a nine-hour flight home: a masterful eight-inning performance in a 4-1 win that gave the A's a split of the two-game set in the Tokyo Dome.
Colon zipped through four perfect innings in 35 pitches, didn't give up a hit until a one-out single by Jesus Montero in the fifth, didn't give up a run until a solo home run by Justin Smoak in the seventh, and wound up getting through eight innings in 86 pitches, striking out six, walking one and allowing three hits.
For a pitcher whose shoulder woes kept him out of action for all of 2010 and considering retirement until an innovative stem-cell treatment brought him back to the mound with the Yankees last year, it has been a noteworthy comeback. For the A's on Thursday night, having lost the Opening Day game to the Mariners in 11 innings, it was a big relief before heading back to the United States.
"One of the reasons we brought him in was his veteran presence," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's the perfect guy to pitch in a game like this. We lose last night in a tough game and he goes out there and does his thing for us."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge was asked after the game for the reason why his hitters went so quickly and so quietly in the loss. He said it was more about Colon than anything his offensive players didn't do.
"I thought Bartolo was excellent tonight," Wedge said. "He was doing a great job of moving his two-seamer around, he wasn't in the middle of the plate -- the one pitch that was probably is the one Smoak hit -- and I was really impressed with the way he threw the ball. He was down, he was working the two-seamer both sides, and rarely, if ever, was he in the middle of the plate tonight."
Colon is a man of few words, so he decided to simply describe his strategy and let the rest of it speak for itself.
"I was using fastballs and two-seamers well," Colon said. "And I was [most successful] going inside with the two-seamer and then outside with the fastball."
There was a lot more to it than that, according to Melvin, who has several youngsters on his starting staff and now can look to a 38-year-old with 14 big league seasons of distinguished experience to lean on moving forward.
"I'm not sure he has a pulse, to tell you the truth," Melvin said. "I know my heart was beating a lot faster than his was, and he's been around a long time, does this, and I don't think anything affects him as far as a big stage like this.
"He really was the right man that we had on the mound tonight, and really a credit to him, not only for what he's accomplished in his career but just who he is."