04/01/2002 00:08 am ET
Colon pitches with power, finesse
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Bartolo Colon made sure he didn't step on the chalk line Sunday night as he made his way to the pitcher's mound in the bottom of the first inning. Apparently, Colon didn't want to risk having bad luck follow him for not heeding this old baseball superstition.
He'd already had good fortune heaped on him in the top of the inning. His so-called punchless teammates cobbled together a four-run inning off Anaheim Angels starter Jarrod Washburn, so Colon's job became simpler: Protect that 4-0 lead.
The hard-throwing Colon did that -- and more -- in a five-hit, 6-0, victory for the Indians in the season opener at Edison Field.
"I'll tell you what: That was impressive," said Indians right fielder Matt Lawton, a former Minnesota Twin. "I was always on the other side, watching him walk off really slow after he'd strike out guys or walk off slow after he had a good inning.
"But it was impressive, 'cause he was on my side. He looked really good."
From start to finish, Colon did look good. He dominated an Angels lineup of sluggers, holding them to Darin Erstad's single over the first four innings.
Even that infield hit wasn't much to brag about. It came in the third, and had Colon been nimbler afoot, he'd have fielded the ball and easily thrown Erstad out at first.
Nimble is not in Colon's satchel of goodies, though. Power is. And the 28-year-old right-hander had his power game revving at 5,000 rpm. He also used his smarts, meaning he took a flyout instead of waiting for a strikeout.
The Indians have been preaching the former to Colon for years. Maybe, Manager Charlie Manuel said, the message as reached his prized pupil.
"I think anytime a guy throws a game like that, he learns more than just someone tellin' him," said Manuel, who saw Colon pitch the Tribe's first Opening Day shutout since Sonny Siebert did so in 1968.
In duplicating Siebert's feat, Colon learned a season's worth of lessons in his 98-pitch outing Sunday night.
Typical of it was Colon's work in the fifth inning.
He retired catcher Bengie Molina on a soft bouncer to Travis Fryman at third. Another Benji -- this one named Gil -- bounced a one-out single between Fryman and shortstop Omar Vizquel. Adam Kennedy flied out to medium center, and David Eckstein hit a soft liner to Lawton for the third out.
Not one strikeout in the lot.
"That's the way I'm gonna pitch," Colon said through an interpreter.
In the sixth, he served up more of that kind of performance. He mixed his hard stuff with curves and changeups, which the Angels could not handle.
For the inning's first out, Colon shattered Erstad's bat on a lazy liner to Fryman. Colon then fielded Tim Salmon's high hopper in front of the plate and turned it into out No. 2. After Garret Anderson's line single to right field, Colon had to hustle off the mound again. He fielded a dribbler along the first-base line, and his throw to first easily beat Troy Glaus to the bag to end the inning.
It might have been Colon's hardest inning. Not because of any trouble the Angels lineup had caused him, but because of the energy he had to spend in fielding his position.
Colon proved in the eighth inning that he had plenty of petrol left in his gas tank. He got Kennedy to pop out. Eckstein then cued a double between Jim Thome and the bag at first. But Erstad bounced out to Thome unassisted, and Salmon struck out on Colon's 96-mph fastball.
He sailed through the ninth as effortlessly as he had the earlier innings.
"I felt strong," Colon said.
Not as strong as he looked, though.
Well, perhaps avoiding the chalk lines ain't such a bad idea after all -- especially if it works. And it did for Bartolo Colon.
Justice B. Hill, a senior writer, covers the Indians for MLB.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.