CLEVELAND - A funny thing happened in Bartolo Colon's first game against his former team, the Cleveland Indians.
Colon, now the ace of the Chicago White Sox's pitching staff, didn't blow the Indians away yesterday with his searing heat and pinpoint control.
That isn't to say Colon was ineffective, because he was quite good in Cleveland's home opener at Jacobs Field.
Colon went six strong innings, yielding six hits and striking out six. But his performance didn't have Indians' fans pining for yesteryear. Colon wasn't the pitcher of record.
That's a good sign for the Indians, who lost 5-3 in 10 innings before an announced sellout crowd of 42,301 that was considerably smaller because of cold weather.
It's going to take time for Cleveland fans to get used to these Indians.
They're a plucky bunch, which is a flattering way of saying they don't have much power in the lineup or a stopper in the rotation.
Games like yesterday's may or may not attract new fans or bring back some of the skeptical ones still scratching their heads over the way general manager Mark Shapiro gutted the roster.
Clever new slogans promoting the rebuilding Indians - “Tickets so close your friends will think you know somebody” - are another way of stating there are plenty of good seats available. Seats that weren't plentiful when Cleveland was winning division titles and making multiple playoff appearances.
Back to Colon. The Indians needed Colon to have a great outing like they needed a hole in the head.
His return to Cleveland after being part of a stunning six-player trade last season was a reminder of the good old days at Jacobs Field.
Colon, who was 20-8 last year with Cleveland and Montreal and has gone 81-42 since 1998, gives whatever team he plays for lots of quality innings, gives his teammates confidence they can win any game he starts.
Colon gave Chicago a chance yesterday. He wore his customary short-sleeve jersey in near-freezing temperatures and threw effectively, even though he didn't have his A-1 stuff.
The Indians nicked Colon for single runs in the second and fifth innings.
Colon's performance provided an interesting contrast to Indians rookie Ricardo Rodriguez, who collected a no-decision despite yielding a single run in six equally strong innings.
Frustrated Indians fans probably couldn't help noticing that Matt Lawton, Ellis Burks and Kareem Garcia went a combined 1-for-14 with six strikeouts in the heart of the order - and wondering whether Jim Thome would have made a difference.
Thank goodness for veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel, who received the loudest cheers during pregame introductions, went 4-for-5 with two runs batted in and as usual made dazzling defensive plays.
At the head of Cleveland's youth movement, rookie starters Travis Hafner (.190), Josh Bard (.105) and Brandon Phillips (.100) are experiencing predictable growing pains.
The Indians may be building for the future, but they're stuck in the present.
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