With Bartolo Colon set to take the mound at the O.co Coliseum as the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros open up a three-game set, all the attention will be focused on the big man and his rapidly declining fastball velocity.
The larger question is if Colon, who has cruised to a 14-4 record with a 2.75 ERA while slinging his two-seam fastball almost exclusively, can keep it up.
If he can’t that could prove quite the problem, as the Athletics have already been widely criticized for lacking a true top of the rotation starter. And that was while the 40-year-old All-Star was still on the top of his game.
The criticism may, in fact, be a good one. While the bullpen is one of the best in baseball, and the starting staff is youthful and talented, the current group of pitchers is very much lacking in the ace department.
However, the club does have a true number one, he just happens to be injured quite a bit. Back on October 9, 2012, with the Athletics down 2-0 in the ALDS to the Detroit Tigers, Brett Anderson fired off six shutout innings as he allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out six Tigers.
That shutdown, and briefly season-extending performance, came just 20 days after Anderson has suffered a right oblique strain. The 25-year-old lefty is slowly working his way back to the Athletics as he recovers from a stress fracture in his right foot. Anderson threw a 31-pitch simulated game on Tuesday and is scheduled to throw another one today. Jane Lee of MLB.com noted, however, that there is still no timeline for a return or even a rehab assignment.
It’s been suggested that the club should bring back Anderson as a reliever in order to accelerate his return. However, based on recent history that argument might not be so compelling. Even if the bullpen is the fast track back, the Athletics simply can’t afford to temporarily convert Anderson into a reliever.
If club added the left-hander to the bullpen, a group that is already highly-capable might just become elite. But a bullpen arm can come from any number of places — the minors, the back-end of the current rotation or even the waiver wire.
What the club needs now is a shutdown starter. As the Tigers learned last fall, that’s exactly what Anderson offers.