By GREG BEACHAM
PHOENIX — Bartolo Colon knew he had failed a drug test for about six weeks before he got hit with a 50-game suspension last season. He made several starts for the Oakland Athletics while knowing he probably wouldn’t participate in the pennant race.
“I continued to pitch, but my mind wasn’t good,” he said.
Now that Colon is back in the clubhouse at spring training with the teammates he let down, the 39-year-old right-hander knows he can only earn peace of mind and forgiveness by getting back in top form on the mound.
Colon finally spoke Tuesday about his season-ending suspension for a positive testosterone test. Through a translator, the former Cy Young Award winner with 171 career victories expressed regret for his past mistakes and hope for his future.
“The only thing I can say about last year is I apologize to everybody, even the fans, the team, the front office about what happened,” he said.
The A’s organization already has forgiven the veteran starter whose first season with Oakland ended prematurely. Not only did the unlikely AL West champions re-sign Colon, they gave him a raise with a $3 million, one-year contract.
“I feel loved, because Oakland gave me the opportunity to come back and be part of it again,” he said.
The Dominican veteran doesn’t intend to call a team meeting to apologize to everybody. He said he’ll speak to the A’s individually about his past mistake and their future.
“I talked to him beforehand, and I thought that was the proper way to go about it,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s not a guy that wants to call a team meeting. That’s not his personality, but it’s his personality to deal with guys individually, and he’s done that to this point. I think he’s handled everything so far to this point very well.”
Colon still must serve the last five games this season, costing him a turn in the rotation. Colon is expected to be a calming veteran presence in one of the majors’ youngest starting rotations, but Oakland has plenty of starting depth with Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily.
Colon went 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts last season, his 15th in the majors. He pitched fairly well after learning of his positive test, going 4-2 after July 1 while presumably not using banned substances.
The A’s were frustrated after losing Colon in mid-August, yet they stuck with him. Colon never claimed he had been the victim of a flawed test, accepting responsibility for getting caught with the banned substance.
“We also know a little bit, based on what we’ve seen through last year, of the quality of the person,” Melvin said. “He was really a great resource here, never a problem, always doing what you need him to do, and there for younger guys when they ask questions. Not the most vocal guy in the world, but leads by example and really was very good for us last year.”
The A’s re-signed Colon after watching him throw in the offseason, with general manager Billy Beane believing Colon hadn’t lost anything without his artificial enhancements. Colon said he didn’t speak to any other teams, staying with Oakland after getting the contract offer in November.
Colon’s absence forced the A’s to scramble to make changes to their rotation, but the scrappy overachievers handled it splendidly. Oakland roared from behind to win the AL West on the final day of the regular season, nosing past two-time league champion Texas and earning its first playoff spot since 2006.
“That’s why I feel so bad, because I couldn’t be part of the team for the playoffs or the rest of the season,” Colon said. “I feel so good that Oakland has given me the opportunity to come back. I’m happy they’re giving me this chance.”