Colon strong in rehab start with Quakes

Colon puts in strong rehab start with Quakes

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- Bartolo Colon, the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner, pitched four shutout innings on Thursday in the first of two scheduled rehab starts, but didn't reach his usual mid-90s fastball.

The starter has been on the disabled list since April 20 with right shoulder inflammation and struggled to an 0-2 record and 7.07 ERA in three early starts this season. Colon threw mostly fastballs for the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes during a rare 10:30 a.m. PT start and totaled 47 pitches in all, 31 of them strikes. His fastball ranged in the low 90s and reached 92 mph on one occasion.

Despite a dropoff from his usual velocity, Colon said he was pleased with his outing and didn't hold anything back.

"At this point, I feel that the arm is not bothering me at all and that my strength is coming little by little, and I feel a lot better," he said through a translator.

Angels assistant general manager Ken Forsch was on hand and said he liked what he saw.

"I thought it went really well," he said. "[Colon] worked both sides of the plate, threw his cutter in there, threw his sinker. His breaking pitches looked good, and his control looked really good."

Colon is next scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday in Fresno and up his pitch count from 60 to 75-80 pitches. If all goes well, the big right-hander will likely return to the Angels on June 11 against the Mariners.

Against the Lancaster JetHawks, the Diamondbacks' Class A affiliate, he allowed two hits, walked a batter and recorded three strikeouts -- all looking -- and retired eight in a row at one point. Colon threw mostly fastballs in the early innings and finally started tossing offspeed pitches in his final two innings.

"In the rehab program I haven't been throwing a lot of breaking stuff in the bullpen," he said. "Coming out here I wanted to follow the same routine and in my next start I'm going to throw a lot more breaking stuff."

Colon's only jam came in the fourth. After he allowed back-to-back singles on two breaking balls -- one a liner up the middle that nearly hit him -- Colon retired the next two batters on a fly ball and a strikeout.

It wasn't until after the first when he appeared to be settled in, though. Colon, who has won a Major League-best 74 games since 2002, began the contest with a fastball high in the zone and went on to walk a batter in the opening frame. He got out of the inning on 10 pitches, five of them being balls.

Colon settled down for the rest of his start and, after the game, Quakes catcher Tim Duff said he was in awe of the way the Major Leaguer commanded his pitches.

"There's a lot of guys on this team who aren't far away stuff-wise," Duff said. "But he commands his fastball really well. He just missed barrels, just makes them mishit it and just makes good pitches when he needs to all of the time."

Because he didn't reach 60 pitches in the game, Colon went through a 13-pitch bullpen session where he worked more on breaking pitches.

Although Colon said he wasn't holding anything back on Thursday, Forsch thought his ace may have had some more left in him.

"His velocity wasn't where it was, but then again, [it was] the first time out, and I think he could have thrown harder if he wanted to," he said.

"Bart is like 95, 96 [mph], so now there's the question of building up his arm strength and getting back where he was."

Despite rehabbing in the offseason from a shoulder strain suffered in Game 5 of last year's American League Division Series and coming into the year in what Colon admitted was the best shape of his Angels career, the pitcher developed scar tissue early on this season, which forced him into his second career trip to the DL.

The Angels haven't yet made it clear whose place Colon will take in their rotation. The Weaver brothers appear to be the two likely candidates: Jeff because he has struggled to a 3-7 start, and Jered since he is still raw.

Regardless of who Colon replaces, he is sure to help out a staff that, so far, hasn't lived up to its recent reputation of sterling pitching. The Halos have a team ERA of 4.61, fifth best in the American League and up from last year's mark of 3.68.

"It feels like everyone looks healthy, and it looks like everyone is coming back," Colon said. "Once everyone comes back, the team is going to look a lot better in the bigs."

A handful of Angels fans eagerly hung around the Quakes locker room to greet Colon when he left the park. There's no question manager Mike Scioscia and Co. feel that same type of fervor about his return to Angel Stadium.

Greg Wagner is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.