CHICAGO -- Absent from a Major League mound for seven weeks with elbow issues, Bartolo Colon might have shouldered his way back into the Angels' October plans on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He didn't last as long as he wanted in a 5-3 loss to the White Sox, going 4 2/3 innings, but Colon threw hard without pain. What he could have used was a little luck during a decisive and frustrating four-run third inning. "I thought he was terrific," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "His stuff was good. Just a couple at-bats got away from him. Other than that, he was outstanding.
"We'll see how he comes out of it [physically]. He pitched much better than the fate he had." Ervin Santana, the man relegated to bullpen duty by Colon's return, delivered three hitless innings of dominant relief, striking out five while walking two. It unraveled for Colon with a two-out, two-strike single to center by Jermaine Dye. Down 0-2 in the count -- Colon would bemoan letting him off the hook -- Paul Konerko had coaxed a walk, the second of the inning. This loaded the bases for Dye after first baseman Casey Kotchman had robbed Jim Thome of a hit with a diving stab behind the bag at first. "He got in on [Dye] with a two-seamer with movement, blew up his bat, and it fell," catcher Jeff Mathis said. "It happens." When third baseman Maicer Izturis bounced a throw to first on A.J. Pierzynski's grounder, the ball got past Kotchman, who whirled and threw wildly past Mathis. Two errors on one play made the third and fourth runs of the inning unearned. "I got a decent read off the bat on [Thome's shot] and was able to come up with it," Kotchman said. "Then I botched the one I should make." The loss was the Angels' second in a row on the road after they'd won six in a row away from Angel Stadium. They collected 11 of their 12 hits off winning pitcher Jose Contreras (9-16). Garret Anderson's three singles raised his average to .303, while Izturis and Howie Kendrick each had two hits. Colon said through the translation of broadcaster Jose Mota that he wants to earn a place in the club's postseason plans. "I have experience pitching in the playoffs," Colon said, having competed five times in the postseason with the Indians (three times) and Angels (twice). "It'll be up to them if they want to use me. I just have to stay focused. "Actually, I feel pretty good. Everything came out fine [physically]. I felt a little bit in the elbow, but nothing like when I went on the DL [on July 24]. I was breaking through some tissue." Colon, who won 15 games for the White Sox in 2003 and was taken in by Thome and Manny Ramirez when he broke in with Cleveland in 1997, admitted it felt "very strange" to be in his old ballpark, facing a man in Thome who meant so much to him. With Thome going for his 500th career homer, a big part of the draw for 33,581 fans, Colon admitted he wouldn't have felt bad if the slugger had gone deep against him. His competitive juices flowing, Colon twice struck out Thome, retiring him a third time on Kotchman's play. "I never thought I'd say this, but I would have been probably happy" to give up Thome's 500th homer, Colon said. "For what he's meant to me -- him and his wife. I do see what he is, one of the best examples for all ballplayers -- not only on the field but off the field." A one-run lead courtesy of Izturis' two-out RBI single in the first inning got away from Colon in the third after he'd pitched out of a serious jam (second and third, none out) in the second. It started, as uprisings so often do, quietly with a walk to center fielder Jerry Owens and a bunt single by Josh Fields. Kotchman's stab on Thome moved the runners up, and Konerko's walk set it up for Dye. Disagreeing with Mathis and Scioscia, who thought he'd thrown a quality pitch to Dye, Colon said: "It was not a good pitch. I wanted the two-seamer outside the plate and running in. Even though he broke his bat, it's not a good pitch." Izturis' error was just his fourth in 254 total chances this season. Kotchman's also was his fourth, in 981 chances. Throwing in the low 90s consistently and reaching as high as 95 mph, Colon struck out Thome for the second time in the fourth to leave runners at second and third. Konerko's leadoff double to right-center in the fifth and Juan Uribe's two-out single to right brought an end to Colon's return. He'd thrown 99 pitches, 61 for strikes. After Chris Bootcheck finished the fifth for Colon, Santana was lights out. Singles by Anderson, Kotchman and Kendrick produced a run in the sixth, but the inning ended when Kendrick was caught stealing. Pinch-hitter Kendry Morales -- hitting .375 since he was recalled on Aug. 24 -- doubled in the eighth to score Anderson, who'd singled. Former Angels prospect Bobby Jenks closed it out for his 38th save with a perfect ninth.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.