The Oakland Athletics watched their starting ace prematurely empty his locker at the hands of the joint drug program earlier this week for the illegal use of testosterone just two days shy of his scheduled start against the scolding-hot Tampa Bay Rays.
Bartolo Colon’s untimely 50-game suspension for PED use rattled Bob Melvin’s fragile dynamic that has managed to land the Athletics a surprising potential postseason appearance for the first time since 2006.
It would be easy to condemn the Athletics’ playoff run amid Colon’s departure—but the resilient 2012 A’s don’t take kindly to being written off. Please refer to walk-off count.
Losing Colon is an apparent setback, but Melvin has managed this Athletics team on a foundation of setbacks thus far, utilizing every ounce of talent available with a $55 million payroll—second lowest in the league above the San Diego Padres.
The silver lining of the Colon suspension was the reactivation of Brett Anderson into the rotation days before, but Melvin would have preferred Anderson as an addition rather than a replacement.
Anderson did not skip a beat in his first start in 14 months, allowing four hits and one run in seven innings. The A’s can shift the dependence invested in Colon to Anderson without losing much talent. Anderson is healthy, and has a fresh arm—which will be crucial for the A’s bullpen at this point in the season.
Berkeley native Tyson Ross took the bump in Colon’s place in the series opener against the Rays, but struggled once again at the major league level, giving up a five-run fifth inning—a pattern that Ross continued from his previous stint in The Show.
Since then, Ross has been sent back down, but will see time as a relieving pitcher instead of his starting job—a role that the A’s will thrive on down the road from his ability to move past hitters initially.
Unlike Melky Cabrera, the A’s only lose Colon every fifth day as opposed to the Giants’ daily loss of a dominant lineup presence—if you don’t count Colon’s comedic presence in the clubhouse.
With Colon’s first scheduled start post-conviction behind the A’s, Melvin and Billy Beane have some breathing room to contemplate the next move until his spot in the rotation comes around again. Dan Straily proved to be an eventual force, but eventually may need to be now.
Fully replacing Colon’s production is impossible for the Athletics, but if one team could spread the workload amongst the pitching staff to stop the bleeding, it's the A’s. They possess the nuts and bolts to shock the baseball world—it's something about money-ball.