PHOENIX The question facing the A's rotation is: Can Bartolo Colon be as effective after his suspension for performance-enhancing drugs as he was before?
Colon, whose suspension in August for use of PEDs threatened the A's season, said Tuesday he expects no ill effects as he prepares for this year.
Asked if his 39-year-old body would hold up without artificial assistance, Colon smiled and said through interpreter Ariel Prieto, "Yes. I feel good now.
"I don't feel anything different," Colon said of life in a personal post-PED era.
Colon's answers during a 12-minute media session obliquely suggested he felt the need to take testosterone to be competitive last year.
If that was the case, then how can Colon expect to improve on the 10-9 record and 3.43 ERA he posted before being suspended? Curiously, some statistical evidence suggests it can be done.
Colon knew he'd failed the drug test for testosterone six weeks before the suspension was announced. The lag time allowed for procedural challenges to the test results, but Colon knew it was coming.
The right-hander essentially had from the first week of July to Aug. 22 to wait for the hammer to fall, presumably without PEDs.
That stretch was his most productive of the season. From July 1 until his suspension, he made nine starts. The A's won seven of the nine games, and he went 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA.
"He's pitched well at times for us without having high velocity (on his fastball)," manager Bob Melvin said. "I don't know what the impact (of the PEDs) was. But I'm confident that he can pitch well for us this year.
"He can pitch well with a high-velocity fastball or a low-velocity fastball. He can just pitch."
Most clubs are more than happy to cut ties with players linked to the use of PEDs, such as the Giants and Melky Cabrera. But the A's were sure enough of Colon's ability to pitch at a high level post-PEDs that after watching him throw this winter, they offered him a one-year, $3 million contract.
Colon, who said he didn't talk to any other club, was delighted to accept.
"I feel so good that Oakland has given me the opportunity to come back," he said.
This was not the first time Colon has had issues of this sort. There were suggestions in 2011 he'd received infusions of stem cells in the Dominican Republic, but he was cleared of charges by Major League Baseball. At the time, he was trying to overcome problems with a torn rotator cuff and ligament damage in his elbow.
Recently, his name popped up in a report alleging he was a client of the Biogenesis of America clinic, which allegedly provided PEDs. Colon did not field questions about that report.
With his arm and shoulder seemingly in good shape, the A's are optimistic Colon will lend some veteran leadership to one of the youngest pitching staffs in the majors.
Colon still has five games of his 50-game suspension to serve, so he won't be part of the rotation the first time through. But Melvin has every expectation that Colon will be part of his five-man staff over the long term.
Between now and then, Colon likely will spend time meeting with his teammates individually to apologize for the PED use. Colon said he was sorry not to have been there during the A's drive to the American League West title.
"It was bad not to be a part of it," he said. "They continued to play together, though."
He said he was opting against having a team meeting to apologize.
"I'm not going to get up in front of the team to do it," he said. "If I do, it will be to get in front of each player."