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Beefing Up the Rotation

Like the notorious puffer fish, Bartolo Colon becomes even more engorged when attempting to ward off opposing hitters. (AP)

In a move that launched a thousand fat jokes on Twitter — "he's in the best shape of Sidney Ponson's life" was the one I went with — the Yankees signed Bartolo Colon to a minor-league deal with an invitation to spring training. The signing is noteworthy because Colon is a former Cy Young winner, having taken AL honors in 2005 on the strength of a 21-8 record and in spite of a 3.48 ERA (Mariano Rivera was the runner up), and because the Yankee rotation remains in such an unfinished state that Sergio Mitre remains the nominal fifth starter.

Beyond that, this news isn't much to get excited about; it's simply the time of year when teams turn over rocks and shake down brothels in search of anyone with enough arm to give their organization a few innings here or there sometime in the coming season. Colon fits that bill, if nothing else, and you could certainly do worse than turn up a former Cy Young winner in such a dragnet, but he's a shadow of the pitcher he once was with the Indians and Angels. Shortly before receiving his award, Colon tore his rotator cuff in the 2005 Division Series against the Yankees, and he hasn't been the same since due to a slew of arm, back, abdominal and knee ailments, not to mention an apparently lax conditioning regimen. From 2006 through 2009, he went just 14-21 at the major league level, with a 5.18 ERA in 47 starts and one relief appearances, whiffing 6.0 per nine and walking 2.5, but yielding a whopping 1.5 homers per nine. In that span, he passed from the Angels to Red Sox to the White Sox, still able to pump his fastball into the mid-90s on occasion but becoming more notable for disappearing midseason, a tough thing to do for a pitcher of his carriage.

Frustrated at the thought of being moved to the Boston bullpen in late September 2008, Colone lit out for the Dominican Republic and was suspended by the team for the remainder of the season. Scheduled for a Triple-A rehab assignment the following summer while in the employ of the White Sox, he instead went missing. The South Side 's best soap operateers were in fine form on this one, with Sox manager Ozzie Guillen blaming the absence on Colon's mourning for Michael Jackson, and general manager Kenny Williams curtly saying, "Efforts to contact his agent have been successful. Their efforts to contact their client have not been so successful... If he doesn't show up on Thursday in Charlotte, somebody will take the mound. This train is going to keep rolling."

Colon managed just one more appearance with the big club before going back on the disabled list. Given his shoddy attendance record, not a single major league team would touch him with a 10-foot fifth-starter pole in 2010. mid the approximately 73 articles our own Cliff Corcoran has committed this winter in covering the Yankees' rotation options, not a single one mentioned Colon. The portly pitcher has supposedly been pitching well in the Dominican Winter League under the watchful eye of Yankees coach Tony Peña, but hey, so have Radhames Liz, Fabio Castro and Ramon Ortiz. In other news, Congressman Dennis Kucinich was nearly crushed by an olive pit. Nobody's throwing any of them a parade, or setting the over/under on their major league starts higher than half a dozen.

In happier news, the smoke signals emanating from Andy Pettitte's camp are just a bit more optimistic than before...