Though Bartolo Colon's winter ball stats equate to a small sample size, the A's are convinced that the veteran right-hander has maintained the form that helped him win 10 games for them last year.
Playing for Aguilas Cibaenas, four months after he was handed a 50-game suspension by Major League Baseball for testing positive for an excessive level of testosterone, Colon tallied 13 2/3 innings over four starts. He held opponents scoreless in two starts, while surrendering a combined eight (seven earned) in the other two.
Like vintage Colon, he struck out 13 and allowed just one walk, and A's assistant general manager David Forst said Colon "looked good in all four of his starts, based on reports."
Colon received a one-year, $3 million contract from the A's on Nov. 3, though he still has five games remaining on his suspension. While his new deal includes plenty of incentives for starts and innings, he also can earn bonuses for relief appearances. But Colon is expected to break camp in the rotation and will be welcomed back with open arms.
"He's gone through his penalty," manager Bob Melvin said recently. "It's one thing if it's a guy who might be a little bit of a bad guy, but he is a true gentleman, a great guy who just made a mistake. He'll be embraced back here again. He was very important for us. Guys like that can kind of get lost in the shuffle when they're not here and you get to the postseason, but he was a key guy for us, he really was."
The former American League Cy Young Award winner went 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland in 2012, his 15th season in the Majors, while providing veteran leadership to an otherwise youthful staff. He'll join Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily in the rotation mix, one of baseball's best.
"I got very close to him, and we had a nice conversation and he was very remorseful when [his suspension] went down," Melvin said. "I think in the back of his mind he was hoping this situation would arise for him again, and it did."