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Yankees benefitting from Bartolo Colon after mysterious stem-cell surgery

Chunky right-hander Bartolo Col(8-6 3.30 ERA) has been huge for New York Yankees this season.  |  Paul J.

Chunky right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.30 ERA) has been huge for the New York Yankees this season. | Paul J. Bereswill~AP

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Updated: November 2, 2011 5:45PM



The White Sox didn’t have many good things to say about Bartolo Colon when they parted ways in 2009.

And there was nothing to say about the chunky righty last season. The assumption was that a damaged shoulder and elbow finally had closed the book on a 13-year career.

But the New York Yankees can’t say enough good things about Colon, whose revival has been as surprising as the story of the unorthodox surgery that led to it.

‘‘I think he’s been our glue,’’ pitching coach Larry Rothschild said of Colon (8-6, 3.30 ERA), who was scheduled to start the series finale Thursday before the Yankees changed their rotation plans Monday.

‘‘He’s been huge for us,’’ manager Joe Girardi said. ‘‘We had no expectations in spring training, and he turned out to be the biggest surprise of spring for us. We didn’t know what we’d get. We let him go two innings at first. Let’s see where he gets at five innings. We started him in the bullpen, but when Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia struggled, we put him in the rotation.’’

Comebacks happen in baseball, but Colon’s carries an air of mystery after revelations in May that he underwent a novel kind of ‘‘stem cell’’ surgery last year in his native Dominican Republic. Dr. Joseph Purita told the New York Times that he used a procedure involving Colon’s stem cells, injecting them to help repair his damaged shoulder and elbow. Purita said he performed the procedure for free and that no substances such as human growth hormone were involved.

The Yankees didn’t know of the surgery when they signed Colon, 38, in January. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said they’d look into whether any banned-substance rules were violated.

Colon has lived up to what Yankees bench coach Tony Pena saw last fall in winter ball when Colon called him, pleading for a chance to pitch. Pena tested him with about 60 pitches in a simulated game, and Colon declared he was ready.

‘‘He threw five innings first,’’ Pena said. ‘‘Then he got better and better. I saw him throwing pitches better than he did before. Before, he was a power pitcher just throwing, but now he was locating pitches, throwing a two-seam fastball, really being a pitcher. That’s when I made the call to the [Yankees]. The rest is history.’’

Colon is almost resembling the pitcher he was for the Cleveland Indians from 1997 to 2002 and in 2003, when he was a rotation mainstay with the Sox. Colon left the Sox after that season and signed with the Los Angeles Angels for the next four seasons.

General manager Ken Williams brought Colon back in 2009 for a try, but he made only 12 starts and pitched 62 innings. He went 3-6 with a 4.19 ERA before going on the disabled list. He never went to Class AAA Charlotte for a scheduled rehab start that July.



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