Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon, the former Cy Young award winner and two-time All-Star, won’t be around for Oakland’s surprising pennant push and news of his 50-game suspension stunned teammates who had come to rely on the popular and dependable veteran.
A week to the day after San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was hit with a 50-game suspension for testing positive for testosterone, Colon was also suspended for 50-games for testing positive for the same substance.
“It’s a shock,” Athletics closer Grant Balfour said. “He’s a guy that we’re definitely relying on right now. I guess you could say it’s bad timing any time, but especially now.”
The Athletics entered play Wednesday one-half game out of the final wild card spot in the American League and five games behind Texas in the American League West.
Colon was having a resurgent season for the Athletics with a 10-9 record and 3.43 ERA. He leads the team in wins, innings pitched (152.1)
and starts with 24. In those 24 starts, Colon pitched seven or more innings 11 times.
He was scheduled to start at Tampa on Thursday.
“I apologize to the fans, to my teammates and to the Oakland A’s,”
Colon said in a statement released by the players’ association. “I accept responsibility for my actions and I will serve my suspension as required by the joint drug program.”
General manager Billy Beane and manager Bob Melvin held a meeting with players Wednesday before the clubhouse was open to media to make the announcement.
Beane had this response, “The A’s support the joint drug-policy program put in by both the union and Major League Baseball. Right now, it affects our baseball team and we’ve got to move forward. We’re all disappointed for not just the Giants and the A’s, but for baseball.”
Melvin plans to use right-hander Tyson Ross, recalled from Triple A-Sacramento, to make Thursday’s start. Ross is 2-8 with a 6.35 ERA in 12 starts with Oakland this year and has a 5.16 ERA in 47 big-league appearances overall. The series opener with the Rays will likely be his only start before top prospect Dan Straily can be recalled from Sacramento. The first-round pick in 2009 was optioned August 20 and cannot be called back for 10 days unless the Athletics have an injury requiring a disabled list stint.
“We’re fortunate to have depth in starting pitching and now is the time to rely on that depth,” Beane added. “I addressed the team. I hope the game itself will take the focus off Colon. We’re looking at this game and tomorrow. The loss of any player hurts this time of the year. But we’ve been a pretty resilient group.”
Colon was very popular amongst his teammates and developed a good camaraderie with the pitching staff, and he was also considered a strong postseason option given his experience.
Melvin was encouraged by the start of Brett Anderson who won his first start in more than 14 months in his return from Tommy John surgery Tuesday.
“That is a boost for us, knowing we have another top-of-the-rotation guy,” Melvin said. “A guy who has pitched in the big leagues and has a little more experience than some of our other guys. For him to pitch so well his first time out made us feel good going forward.”
Colon has a career record of 171-122 in 15 seasons and won the American League Cy Young award for the Angels in 2005 with a record of 21-8.
His one-year deal includes a $2 million salary, of which he will forfeit the remaining $469,945 because of the suspension. He earned $600,000 in performance bonuses.
San Francisco reliever Guillermo Mota received a 100-game suspension for his second positive PED test, Philadelphia infielder Freddy Galvis, and free agent outfielder Marlon Byrd were each suspended 50 games in June for positive drug tests.