Bartolo Colon was in trouble immediately Monday.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
CLEVELAND -- Bartolo Colon has three more regular season starts to fine tune what had made him the Indians' No. 1 starter and their top hope for advancing in the playoffs.
Monday against the Chicago White Sox, the 26-year-old struggled with a high pitch as he was charged with the first three runs in the Tribe's loss.
Colon threw 131 pitches and didn't survive the sixth inning.
"I kept him out there as long as I could," Indians manager Charlie Manuel said, "but it got to where I had to go get him."
Colon went to a full count on nine batters and fell behind 3-1 on two others. Jeff Liefer walked on four pitches in the fifth inning.
The other starters have little postseason experience, which is why the Indians are concerned that Colon has lost four of his past six decisions.
The current rotation has two rookies (C.C. Sabathia and Ryan Drese), a former reliever (Bob Woodard) and a 38-year-old with only three career playoff games (Chuck Finley).
Playoff recap: In 1998, Colon started Game 4 of the Division Series against the Boston Red Sox, but was not credited with the victory. He won his one start against the New York Yankees in the 1998 American League Championship Series.
In 1999, Colon started Game 1 of the Division Series against the Red Sox, but was not the winning pitcher. Pitching on three days' rest in Game 4 at Fenway Park, Colon was shelled in the Indians' 23-7 loss.
Colon was in trouble immediately Monday but worked his way out of danger after 24 first-inning pitches.
Ray Durham singled and advanced to second on a balk when Colon lost control of the ball on a pickoff move.
Jose Valentin bunted for an infield single, sending Durham to third base. Colon struck out Magglio Ordonez on a 3-2 changeup and retired Paul Konerko on a flyball to shallow center field.
"We want him to throw more breaking balls," Manuel said of Colon, whose fastball reaches 98 mph.
With the bases loaded after Jose Canseco walked, Carlos Lee hit a sharp grounder that third baseman Travis Fryman dove to stop to end the inning.
Colon threw 21 pitches in the second inning, but allowed just one run, when Chris Singleton scored from second base on Mark Johnson's sacrifice bunt.
In the third inning, Liefer hit a 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall to give Chicago a 2-1 lead.
Carlos Lee's one-out walk in the fourth inning produced Chicago's only baserunner of that frame. Still, Colon needed 21 pitches to get the third out.
After Leifer drew a two-out walk in the fifth inning, Colon struck out Paul Konerko on three pitches.
In the sixth inning, Canesco and Lee led off with singles, and Canseco scored on Royce Clayton's one-out single, which ended Colon's night.
Colon is ranked third in the A.L. for average pitches thrown, with 107.