Remember the good old days when it seemed as if A.J. Burnett was the Yankee starter most likely to be left out of the playoff rotation?
Now, it appears that Bartolo Colon may have replaced A.J. as the man on the playoff bubble. His performance against the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night was his third poor outing -- 3 IP, 7H, 5ER -- in his last four, and continued a downward spiral that began on July 7 against the same team. To that point in the season, Colon was 6-3 with a 2.88 ERA. Since that game, Colon is 2-7 with a 5.32 ERA.
More alarmingly, his velocity has dropped a significant 3-4 MPH on both his two-seam and four-seam fastballs. For instance, on April 27, a win over the White Sox in which he pitched 7 innings of one-run ball, Colon's four-seamer averaged 93.2 MPH and topped out at 96; his two-seamer averaged 91.8 and topped out at 94.
Thursday night, Colon's four-seamer averaged just 90.42 MPH according to PitchFX, and his two-seamer 88.9.
Consequently, he got hit hard in his brief night's work, including surrendering a long two-run home run to Ben Zobrist in the third inning. Colon has now pitched 159 innings this year, far more than he has thrown in any season since 2005.
After the game, Joe Girardi admitted to some concern over the dropoff in Colon's effectiveness and refused to committ to him for a spot in the playoff rotation.
"When we went into this year we weren't sure how many innings we could get out of him, so there is some concern there.'' the manager said. "It's location, it's movement and it's velocity. That's why were concerned about him. We’ll just continue to evaluate him.''
Girardi said he did not believe Colon was injured and said he might get one more start -- his regular turn would come up again Tuesday in Tampa in the second-to-last regular-season game of the year -- but acknowledged he would take Colon's recent form into account when he decides upon a playoff rotation.
"You look at the body of work he's had in the last month or so, the last couple of months or so,'' Girardi said, "And you make a decision and you go with it.''
If, as the manager hinted, he might go with a three-man rotation for the first round, pitching CC Sabathia in the opener next Friday and again in Game 4 on short rest, Colon might find himself the odd man out.
"I'm not worried about it at all,'' Colonn said. "Whatever decision they make, I'll accept it.''