PHOENIX -- The question facing Bartolo Colon: Can the A's right-hander be as effective as he was before the drug suspension that sidelined him for the final 45 games last season plus the first five games of this one?
Colon, whose suspension in August for performance-enhancing drugs threatened the A's season, said Tuesday he expects no ill effects as he prepares to pitch this year.
Colon knew he had failed a drug test for testosterone six weeks before his suspension was announced. The lag time was for procedural challenges to the test results, but Colon, who knew the suspension was coming, had from the first week in July to Aug. 22 to wait for the hammer to fall, presumably without taking PEDs.
That stretch was his most productive of the year. From July 1 until his suspension, Colon made nine starts. The A's won seven, and he went 4-2 with a 2.30 ERA.
Asked if his 39-year-old body would hold up without artificial assistance, Colon smiled and said through interpreter Ariel Prieto, "Yes. I feel good now. I don't feel anything different."
Colon's answers during a 12-minute chat in the A's dugout suggested that he felt the need to take testosterone to be competitive last year.
"He's pitched well at times for us without having high velocity (on his fastball)," manager Bob Melvin said. "I don't know what the impact (of the PEDs) was. But I'm confident that he can pitch well for us this year. He can pitch well with a high velocity fastball or a low velocity fastball. He can just pitch."
The A's were sure enough of Colon's ability after watching him throw this winter that they offered him a contract. Colon, who said he didn't talk to any other club, was delighted to accept.
"I feel so good that Oakland has given me the opportunity to come back," he said. "I'm happy they are giving me this chance."
This was not the first time Colon has had issues. There were suggestions in 2011 that he'd received infusions of stem cells in the Dominican Republic, but he was cleared of charges by Major League Baseball. At the time, he was trying to overcome problems with a torn rotator cuff and ligament damage in his elbow.
His arm and shoulder seem to be in good shape. The A's are optimistic he will lend some veteran knowledge to one of the youngest pitching staffs in the majors.
Since Colon still has five games left from his suspension, he won't be part of the A's rotation the first time through come April. But Melvin has every expectation that Colon will be part of his five-man staff over the long-term.
Between now and then, Colon might go to his teammates individually to apologize for the PED use that led to his suspension while the A's were in the middle of a pennant race. Colon said he was sorry not to have been there and proud of his teammates for winning the A.L. West.
"It was bad not to be a part of it," he said. "They continued to play together, though."
He said that he was opting against having a team meeting to apologize.
He threw for about 10 minutes in the outfield at the A's Papago Park facility, then went through a two-plus-hour workout that included the treadmill. Balfour said "something would be wrong" if he isn't ready to pitch within four weeks of his original surgery.
Balfour underwent arthroscopic surgery Thursday on the meniscus in his right knee. He was back on his feet within 24 hours and throwing within five days.
"Throwing is not an issue," Balfour said. "The knee feels great."
New players listed in documents from the Biogenesis of America include A's lefty reliever Jordan Norberto and former A's reliever Fautino De Los Santos, who now is with the Padres. Other players include San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera and Houston outfielder Fernando Martinez. Cabrera is the defending National League stolen base champ.
Grant Balfour plans to beat doctor's timetable for his recovery. www.mercurynews.com/Athletics