Colon may be best suited for bullpen

There seemed to have been a fade in the effectiveness of Bartolo Colon once the dog days of August arrived. There was a time when August was Colon’s month. Prior to this season, he was 27-11 in the month and still had the fourth highest winning percentage in August of any active pitcher heading into Tuesday night’s game.

Perhaps it was inevitable that things would change this year. After all, Colon is 38 years old and pitching with a surgically-repaired right shoulder that after a year of relative inactivity has logged more than 130 innings. He didn’t win again Tuesday night, but he pitched better than the numbers would indicate (6 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 5 earned runs, 5 strikeouts, 2 home runs).

What was so good about all that? Well, both home runs were solos because he did not walk a batter, which is always a plus, and two of the runs scored after he left the game in the seventh as Boone Logan gave up a double to pinch hitter Scott Sizemore. That does not absolve Colon, who still must prove he belongs in the rotation once the Yankees get to September.

He was rolling along there for a while and looking very much like the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind American League Cy Young Award candidate CC Sabathia. But in his four starts since his last victory July 30, Colon is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in 22 innings in which he has allowed 26 hits, including six home runs.

I have felt for a while that the Yankees might have been better served with Colon pitching out of the bullpen to keep his innings from getting out of hand and to have him throw as hard as he can (which can get up to 97 mph) over short doses. Colon stepped up big time, however, when Phil Hughes stumbled out of the gate and had to go on the disabled list with arm fatigue.

When Hughes returned two months later, Colon was a stalwart in the rotation, and the Yankees chose to option Ivan Nova to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. After a month away, Nova has come back to pitch himself into the AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year conversation, so the rotation has gotten mighty crowded.

The Yankees will stay in a six-man rotation through Saturday’s dual-admission doubleheader at Camden Yards. After that, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has a decision to make in slicing his rotation down to five. My vote would be to use Colon out of the pen. It would not be a demotion in any way.

Considering the recent troubles of A.J. Burnett, a good long man in the pen is a priority. Colon was willing to work as a reliever when he signed with the Yankees. He is happy enough to be back in the major leagues that I believe he would accept this assignment willingly and would greatly improve the makeup of the staff.

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