03/13/08 7:05 PM ET
Sox, Colon pleased with spring debut
Club encouraged by right-hander's progress, pitch velocity
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Basically signed as a free agent off the scrap heap on Feb. 25, Colon's mission is to prove to the Red Sox -- and to the 29 teams that took a pass on him -- that he can still pitch.
In two innings Thursday against the Rays, Colon gave up two hits and a run -- a solo homer -- over two innings. But the stat line wasn't what mattered. It was more what the radar gun said.
"I'll be honest with you -- he had more arm strength than we expected," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "He was 90 to 94 [mph] with his fastball, he hit 92 to 93 a lot. That's more velocity than we expected out of him. Obviously, he was a little rusty. He was up a lot early and then left a pitch over the middle in the second inning. But it was impressive; he had good two-seam life, showed arm strength and showed the ability to spin the ball with his slider, and he threw one good changeup. For his first time out, we were really impressed."
After battling arm woes the past two seasons, Colon finally feels as if he is healthy again.
"I'm thrilled with the way my arm has been responding," Colon said through interpreter Eddie Romero. "I don't know how hard I was throwing, but it felt very good."
There was a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the first inning, but Colon got out of it with no runs allowed. He struck out B.J. Upton, induced Jonny Gomes into a popup and got John Rodriguez on a grounder to first.
"I feel very good and my control was good, kind of what I was looking for," Colon said. "I felt really strong out there today."
Of Colon's 26 pitches, 18 were for strikes.
Colon is expected to make his next turn in the rotation on Monday, when the Red Sox travel to Tampa, Fla., to face the Yankees for the only time this spring.
It is expected that Colon will start the season in either extended Spring Training or Minor League rehab. Because he was a free agent until Spring Training had already started, Colon is a couple of weeks behind the other pitchers.
If Colon can get anywhere close to the level he was at before injuries impacted him the past two years, it could prove to be the ultimate low-risk, high-reward move by the Red Sox.
Curt Schilling (right shoulder) is out indefinitely for Boston and ace Josh Beckett is likely to miss at least his Opening Day start because of back woes.
"We're trying to have a guy who can come and get some wins for us at the Major League level," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He's got a lot of experience, he's got a good pedigree, he's got good arm strength."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.