OAKLAND, Calif. – Bartolo Colon never expected to be pitching at age 40, not in the playoffs, and especially not as a Game 1 starter.
And not this well a year after being suspended 50 games for a positive testosterone test.
The veteran right-hander will get the ball for the Oakland Athletics in the opener of their American League Division Series against visiting Detroit on Friday night, his first postseason appearance in eight years.
“It means so much to me. I’m 40 years old and never thought I’d be here,” Colon said in Spanish. “It is more special, a lot. The first reason is because of the Oakland organization, and I thank them for bringing me here to pitch another time.”
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A year after Colon missed the playoffs for the A’s while serving the suspension, he is getting another chance on baseball’s big stage — in his first playoff appearance since 2005, when he was with the Angels.
Colon was 18-6 with a 2.65 earned-run average in 30 starts this season.
Max Scherzer (21-3), who started the All-Star Game, will pitch Game 1 for Detroit and Justin Verlander (13-12), the AL most valuable player in 2011, will start Game 2 for the Tigers.
“I truly feel that I could start any one of my guys and I would feel comfortable,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “I think that the kind of year Scherzer’s had … I’m sure somebody will find something wrong with this choice, but I think that’s kind of hard to argue.”
Scherzer said, “It’s awesome. We’re going up against a great team, and I have a shot to go out there and pick up the win, first time. What more can you want?”
Verlander’s 3.46 ERA was his highest since 2008.
Asked about Leyland picking Scherzer to start the series opener, Verlander said, “If it was me, I’d probably make the same decision. Max has had a magical season, and when a guy has a season like that and everything’s going right, why not ride it?”
• Danny Salazar, 23, a rookie as far as his major-league service time is concerned, will be Cleveland’s starting pitcher in Wednesday night’s AL wild-card game against visiting Tampa Bay. Salazar is 2-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 10 starts.
“Believe me, we wouldn’t pitch him if we weren’t confident in him giving us the best chance to win,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Danny has done nothing to make us think he can’t handle this.”
Alex Cobb (11-3) will start for the Rays.
• Manager Ned Yost got a two-year contract extension from Kansas City. The Royals were 86-76, their best finish in 24 years.
• General manager Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees said he is about to offer manager Joe Girardi a new contract. Girardi has a 564-408 record in six seasons with the Yankees.
• Major League Baseball’s average attendance fell 1.2 percent this year to 30,514 per game, down from 30,895 last year and the peak of 32,785 in 2007.
• The major-league batting average was .253 this season, the lowest level since hitters combined for a .244 average in 1972.