By Jason Keidel
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We all knew the Yankees’ best pitcher this year would be a large man who threw a live ball.

We didn’t know he’d throw it with his right hand, and was brought to New York as a de facto insurance policy, a fading, former Cy Young winner who would likely roam between the rotation and bullpen, if not drift from team to team in a pitching-starved sport.

Where would the Yankees be without Bartolo Colon? No, he’s not off to a Clemensian (circa 2000) start, but Colon has been nothing short of a life raft for a team drowning in a dearth of decent starting pitchers.

Before you demand a urine sample from me after stamping Colon the team’s early ace, look at the numbers. Before CC Sabathia’s gem last night, Colon and Sabathia started nine games apiece, and the Yankees went 5-4 for each hurler. Colon had a better ERA (3.16 to 3.47), and a better WHIP (1.13 to 1.36). Colon had a better strikeouts to innings pitched ratio, had a better strikeout to walk ratio, better batting average against (.241 to .260), and half the walks.

Sabathia’s 2011 salary is $24,285,714.

Colon? 900 grand.

It seems each year each team making deep autumnal runs savors some serendipity like this, plucking an old or otherwise forgotten man who shines that season for no reason. Colon is popping the radar gun regularly at around 94mph. There’s movement on his heater, a smile on his face, and a permanent place in this rotation the rest of the year.

After the whiff on Cliff Lee, Dandy Andy’s retirement, and Phil Hughes not throwing a decent fastball since 2010, the Yanks saw Colon as a crapshoot among several they took during the winter, including Kevin Millwood and Freddie Garcia. Anchoring the back of the rotation with the fellow, fading star, Garcia, Colon was always something of an enigma, even at his Cy Young best – always overweight, mostly underperforming, apathetic, and just downright fat, his sagging chin as much his visage as his cap.

After wining the award in 2005, Colon started just 48 games the next four years, and didn’t pitch at all last year. You would be rather reasonable to assume he was done. Colon was cast into the cast of coddled, entitled millionaires who took their talents for granted, abandoning the game years too early and 100 wins short, a live arm and dead brain.

Sure, there are whispers about some stem cell procedure (on his shoulder and elbow) that may have added MPH (or HGH) to his arm. But the notion of a pitcher or player at the business end of a chemist’s needle is about as surprising as hearing that they were breastfed as babies. Does anyone really believe that Jose Bautista’s sudden, Ruthian surge after eight years (with eight teams) of marginal play came by way of extra protein and Pilates?

So every time a player is revived, resurgent, or resuscitated, we wince at the possibilities. But until a smoking syringe appears, it appears the Yanks have gotten a bargain in Bartolo – perhaps the pitching steal of the season.

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