Colon impressive in bullpen sessions, aims for March 15 start

Updated: March 5, 2008, 7:44 PM ET
Associated Press

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox reluctance to give Bartolo Colon rave reviews keeps getting tougher.

The 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner pitched his second impressive bullpen session Wednesday and is on schedule to make his first start on March 15 since signing a minor league contract on Feb. 25.

"The expectation was there," Boston pitching coach John Farrell said after watching Colon throw 41 pitches, "but I think initially and, again, this is very premature, he's on the positive side of those expectations."

Still, the Red Sox don't want to rush him.

"While I feel ready to go, I actually believe in what John is telling me. If John says it's the 15th, then that's the day I'll be ready to go," Colon said through a translator. "I'm very anxious (to face hitters), because that's when you can really tell how far along you are."

Colon is competing for the vacancy in the rotation created by Curt Schilling's shoulder injury that's expected to keep him out for at least half the season. The other candidates are Clay Buchholz, Kyle Snyder and Julian Tavarez.

While Colon was throwing on Wednesday, Schilling stopped to watch as he was leaving the ballpark after doing his rehab work. He didn't talk with Colon but chatted with Farrell near the mound before leaving.

"Had a chance to see Bartolo throw again today and I was blown away. He looks incredible," Schilling said on his blog, 38pitches. com. "Could be a huge steal, not sure how other teams passed on him. He looked awesome."

Colon is coming back from shoulder and elbow injuries that limited him to seven wins over the past two seasons. He was the second winningest pitcher in baseball from 1998-2005.

He'll pitch another bullpen session Friday -- adding the slider to the fastball and changeup he threw in his first two workouts. Then he's scheduled to throw batting practice Monday

"There's no reason to think at this point that won't go successfully," Farrell said.

Colon would then face Cincinnati in his first game since he worked 4 2-3 innings on Feb. 6 for the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean World Series.

He had hoped to pitch on Sunday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"We want to be sure that we make steps in the right way rather than rushing it," Farrell said. "There's no reason to think he would have a setback, but we have some time, in the early stages of this, on our side."

After two disappointing seasons, Colon is willing to wait.

"I feel really good about how my arm strength is building up," he said. "I've had to slow myself down because I'm so happy with the way things are progressing. I have to make sure to keep it under control."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press