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After Pain Comes a Cy

The Angels' Colon, disappointed about the shoulder injury that knocked him out of the postseason, easily tops Rivera for the award.

November 09, 2005|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

There was no way this part of Tuesday's conference call to introduce Angel pitcher Bartolo Colon as the American League Cy Young Award winner was going to get lost in translation.

"Loco, loco, loco," Colon said, when asked to describe the scene in Altamira, the tiny farming town on the Dominican Republic's mountainous north coast, where the right-hander grew up and spends most of his winters.

"You can't even imagine the scene," Angel broadcaster Jose Mota continued, translating Colon's full response. "People are stopping by, honking their horns. It's been really crazy, crazy, crazy. This is the first time we've celebrated something like this around here. There's going to be a lot of partying."

A season that ended in frustration, with Colon despondent about a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the AL championship series, took a somewhat serendipitous turn Tuesday when Colon became the Angels' first Cy Young Award winner since Dean Chance in 1964.

There was a strong September push for New York Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, and many felt the race would be tight. Even Colon, who went 21-8 with a 3.48 earned-run average to help the Angels win their second straight AL West title, had doubts.

"I thought maybe I wouldn't get it," Colon said. "A lot of crazy things went into my head."

But Colon won handily, finishing with 118 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, garnering 17 first-place votes and 11 second-place votes to finish 50 points ahead of Rivera and earn a $500,000 bonus.

Rivera, whom Colon thanked "for teaching me how to hold the cut fastball" back in 1996, had 68 points, getting eight first-place votes, and Minnesota Twin left-hander and 2004 Cy Young winner Johan Santana finished third with 51 points.

"I'm very, very happy that the year Bartolo had is being recognized with this great honor," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. "If you see how hard he works, how much pain he pitched through, how well he performed ... it's tremendous for our organization. We would not be in the position we were without the year Bartolo had."

A lower-back injury hindered Colon during the final two months of the season, but it was a strain, or small tear, in the back of Colon's shoulder that knocked the 32-year-old out of the final AL division series game against the Yankees and the AL championship series against the Chicago White Sox.

"This doesn't take away the pain I felt, the sour taste I had in my mouth, about the way the season ended," Colon said. "I wanted to win the World Series. I desperately wanted to pitch against the White Sox. But the pain I felt, I knew I wasn't going to be able to help my team."

Two Angel trainers examined Colon and performed strength tests on his shoulder Monday, and Colon will begin a rehabilitation and light throwing program later this week. Colon is expected to be ready for spring training and hopes to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the first World Baseball Classic next March.

"It's hard to say right now [how the shoulder is] because I'm not throwing," Colon said. "But I know my back is feeling better."

Colon experienced tightness in his lower back, but he managed the condition so effectively he did not miss a start or experience any dip in performance.

The Angels' first 20-game winner since Nolan Ryan went 22-16 in 1974, Colon went 11-5 with a 3.42 ERA before the All-Star game and 10-3 with a 3.55 ERA after the break. He ranked eighth in the league in ERA, eighth in strikeouts (157), seventh in innings pitched (222 2/3 ) and seventh in fewest walks per nine innings (1.7).

"To combine velocity with great command is a package you don't see often," Scioscia said. "That puts him in an elite group of pitchers."

Colon's fastball still hits 98 mph, but he is not the power pitcher he was when he came up with Cleveland -- Colon struck out 212 batters in 2000 and 201 in 2001.

Colon now cuts, sinks and tails his fastball, giving it three different looks, and he mixes in an occasional slider and changeup. He is more pitcher than thrower.

"If I can get an out with one or two pitches and use my sinker or cutter, I'm better off," Colon said. "I stopped being a village boy, thinking that I can throw any stone, any rock through a wall, and started thinking about being a guy that could last longer, to take some off my fastball and not to depend only on throwing hard. Mixing movement on my fastball has made me a more complete pitcher."

Colon thanked Angel owner Arte Moreno, Scioscia, pitching coach Bud Black and the entire organization for showing confidence in him, but he dedicated the award to his parents.

Colon, who dropped out of school after the sixth grade, grew up working six days a week, 10 or more hours a day, in the sun-baked coffee-bean fields near Altamira with his father, Miguel. He developed his remarkable leg strength climbing tall palm trees to pick coconuts.

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