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Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #40 Bartolo Colon

| On 11, Jan 2012

Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Bartolo Colon.

By Mike Brandyberry

Sometimes a player’s greatest gift to an organization is what you leave behind. What Bartolo Colon left the Indians has shaped their franchise to this very day.

Colon was signed as a free agent from the Dominican Republic in 1993 and made the Indians out of spring training in 1997. The hard throwing right hander was the Indians’ top rated prospect for the previous two seasons. As a rookie, he bounced between the Tribe and AAA and was left off the playoff roster in all three rounds.

However, 1998 became Colon’s coming out party, winning 14 games and making his first All-Star Game. That season began a streak of eight consecutive that he would win 14 games or more in a season. He quickly became the staff ace and the power pitcher the offensive-heavy Indians needed.

Colon pitched the Tribe to the AL Central crown in 2001, but was saddled with the responsibility of facing the 116-win Seattle Mariners in the American League Division Series. Colon shut out the heavy favorites in Game One, and after thumping the Mariners 17-2 in Game Three, he found himself back on the mound in Jacobs’ Field with the chance to defeat the heavy favorite. Colon pitched the Tribe into the seventh inning with a lead, but Charlie Manuel stuck with the tiring ace too long and Dannys Baez couldn’t slow the offense when he finally relieved him and the Mariners won 6-2. They won the decisive Game Five, 3-1 in Seattle and eliminated the Tribe.

Unfortunately, that 2001 playoff series would be Colon’s last in an Indian uniform. The next season, after starting the year 10-4, General Manager Mark Shapiro decided to trade Colon and officially begin the rebuilding process of the Cleveland Indians. The Montreal Expos, looking for a buyer for the team, was ready to win immediately and traded young prospects, Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee and Grady Sizemore along with veteran Lee Stevens to the Tribe.

Colon went 10-4 with the Expos in the second half of the 2002 season, but was unable to pitch them to the playoffs. He was traded that offseason to the Chicago White Sox and after 2003 became a free agent and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. He thrived in southern California the first two seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in 2005, but arm and weight issues derailed his career.

Meanwhile, Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Brandon Phillips have each emerged into All-Stars. Sizemore, still a member of the Tribe, helped lead the Indians back to the playoffs in 2007. Lee emerged as a Cy Young winner in 2008 before being traded to Philadelphia and Phillips was jettisoned to Cincinnati when he could not work with then-manager Eric Wedge. Once in Cincinnati, Phillips has shined.

Colon left Los Angeles after 2007, struggled in Boston in 2008, back to the White Sox in 2009 and was out of baseball in 2010. He experimented with a unique stem-cell regeneration and made a comeback with the New York Yankees in 2011 and will again try to pitch for the Bronx Bombers this spring.

Photo: Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

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