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03/29/08 2:51 AM ET

Colon progressing, heading to Triple-A

Sox optimistic as veteran is throwing comfortably in low 90s

LOS ANGELES -- Shortly after turning in a strong performance against the Dodgers on Friday night, the Red Sox informed Bartolo Colon that he was going to be an Opening Day starter. Well, at least for Triple-A Pawtucket.

That is where the big right-hander will continue his climb back to the Major Leagues. And the way Red Sox manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell were sounding after the game, it doesn't sound as if Colon is all that far from claiming residence in the home clubhouse at Fenway Park.

"Ideally, we'd like to see all of our starters get stretched out to 85 to 100 pitches in Spring Training," said Farrell. "In a normal Spring Training, that's what all of our starters will get to. Whether that's two or three more starts for him at Pawtucket, I'm not going to say that's a plan etched in stone, but certainly it's kind of framework that we're working under."

In his start at Dodger Stadium, Colon allowed three hits and a run, walking one and striking out four.

Next up for Colon will be a Thursday outing at Pawtucket against Indianapolis. Presumably, Colon is excited about his progress, though he declined to speak with reporters following Friday's start.

The Red Sox continue to leave no doubt about their enthusiasm regarding the righty, whom they picked up at minimal cost in late February.

"Each time on the mound, he gets a little further along," said Francona. "I thought he commanded both sides of the plate, and he threw some breaking balls that had some depth to them. I think we were all pleased. I think he was, too."

If Colon can be anything even close to what he was with the Angels, White Sox or Indians, the Red Sox will have gotten themselves a steal.

Arm problems have robbed Colon of innings and success the past two years, but he seems to be at full health this spring.

"He's been bouncing back fine," said Farrell. "His bullpens have been very strong, very consistent. I think it's just been a matter of the durability and stamina within a given outing. There's not been a problem with any bounce-back."

Because he came to camp a couple of weeks after all the other pitchers, Colon is still catching up at this point.

"I think the more he gets in shape, the better he's throwing the ball down in the zone, and that should continue," Francona said. "The more he builds up arm strength, the more he gets his legs under him, the stronger he feels. That's the whole idea -- to build him up and not have him go the other way."

While Colon has always been known as a power pitcher -- and he's throwing the ball comfortably in the low 90s these days -- he's also shown the ability to take something off the ball.

"In three outings that we've seen of him, I think there's more breaking ball than we anticipated," said Farrell. "He's always had the ability to manipulate the fastball, the two seamer on both sides of the plate. He does such a good job of throwing that comeback two-seamer in on a lefty. Any time you can spread home plate with a sinker on one side and a slider on the other side, that's an advantage. The depth to it is a little bit better than we anticipated coming into camp."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.