Yankees righty Bartolo Colon is six years removed from his last season as an elite starter in the big leagues ; he missed the 2010 season altogether and showed his gratitude towards the Bombers by reporting to Spring Training some 30 pounds overweight. So how might we account for El Barto more than respectable 37 K’s in 37.1 innings pitched this season, or his 3.86 ERA? Where does a 37 year old who might not be a fitness fanatic find increased velocity? As MLB Trade Rumors’ Nick Collias reports, Colon might be a genuine guinea pig pioneer.
According to a story in the Dominican daily Diario Libre, the new life in Colon’s arm could be partially attributable to two treatments of stem cells – or “células madre” as they’re called in the Dominican Republic, where Colon had the procedures. The doctors, Sergio Guzman and Leonel Liriano, told the newspaper they had envisioned using the treatment on Pedro Martinez, but they also sent “an invitation” out to Colon, which he accepted in March 2010. (Pedro’s invitation, the article says, is still open). Guzman was quick to insist, though, that when they took fatty tissue and bone marrow from Colon’s hip and injected it into injured tissues in his rotator cuff and elsewhere in his right shoulder, they weren’t doing anything revolutionary.
“We have not invented anything, nor have we done anything new. This is being done the world over,” Guzman explained. “We received some training overseas to handle this type of things. Harvard University donated the centrifuges. This is no invention. What we do is take a little bit of bone marrow and we put it into an affected area.”
Among major league pitchers, the bar for success with stem cell treatments is Takashi Saito, who received an injection of platelet-rich plasma in his pitching elbow in July of 2008, at age 38, in an attempt to avoid Tommy John surgery. Saito was closing for the Dodgers again by September, and was a largely reliable option for the Red Sox and Braves over the next two seasons.