Anyone could have had him, really. Pick up the phone, place a call, and a former Cy Young Award winner could have been yours.
Fortunately for the Red Sox, they were the ones who got through to the Dominican Republic in spring training. Then again, they were the only ones who tried.
It was a chance they were willing to take, especially for short money, and Bartolo Colon has so far been more than they could have asked.
Last night he won his fourth game in five decisions, going six innings and allowing one run on five hits in a 6-3 triumph over the Orioles at Fenway Park. That's three fewer wins than he had in 2006 and 2007 combined, because of injuries.
"Right now he's got a lot of movement," Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez told Baltimore reporters. "He's got a pretty good two-seamer going on. He's around 93, 94 [miles per hour], and if he wants to go higher, he's still got it. He's not easy to face. He pitches more; before, he was a power guy trying to blow everyone away. Now he's the guy that pitches around the plate and makes you swing early in the count. He has way more movement than he did before."
He also had plenty of support as the Sox eased the way for Colon with a five-run first inning before a crowd of 38,130.
"He's been tremendous for us," said manager Terry Francona. "It's been fun to watch. Get a guy that you didn't have when spring training started, and all of sudden, he's right in the middle of the rotation, helping us win games. It's been big."
Big too was the three-run homer by the ailing Jason Varitek, which gave the Sox a 5-0 lead.
But any germs the catcher might be bringing into the clubhouse seem to be forgiven. "I hope he feels like crap every night," Mike Lowell said, "if he's going to hit three-run home runs."
With the win, Colon stands at 150 for his career, one of only 12 active players to have hit that milestone. He also pitched his 2,000th inning last night.
Colon struck out seven, all but one coming on fastballs, as he tries to mix in his slider more.
"He's done a great job for us all year, really giving us a chance to put us in a position to win a lot of games," said Lowell, who hit a home run to lead off the sixth. "I think a lot of people kind of thought it was a high flier, but he's been very important to us all year.
"After his first outing, when he was throwing 92, 93, I think the biggest concern was velocity, not ability. Because the ability's there. I was kind of optimistic on that, just seeing if they could get his pitch count up. I don't believe you forget how to pitch, especially when you've been as successful as he has."
J.D. Drew's double that kicked off the right-field stands scored the first run. Jacoby Ellsbury, who had singled, stolen second, and gone to third on an error by pitcher Garrett Olson on the steal, came home on the play. Drew scored on a wild pitch.
After walks to Lowell and Kevin Youkilis, Varitek, who was hitting .160 over his last 14 games, smashed a 3-and-1 pitch over the wall in left, his first home run hitting righthanded this season.
"He didn't feel well," Francona said. "He stayed out there probably longer than he should have. He didn't say anything to me until his first at-bat."
Then Francona added, smiling, "[He] took some good swings." Or at least one good swing, which provided the margin in a game that ended up closer than it should have.
Mike Timlin entered for the ninth. With him came Kevin Cash, a rare late-game substitute for Varitek.
Timlin allowed consecutive doubles to Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar to open the inning, bringing the Orioles within four runs and forcing Jonathan Papelbon to get up in the bullpen. Baltimore scored another run on a two-out error by second baseman Dustin Pedroia, followed by a pinch-hit single by Oscar Salazar.
That was enough for Francona. In came Papelbon, who got Brian Roberts to ground to first base.
But it was Colon, who had exchanged starts with Jon Lester while the lefthander served the final game of his suspension, who was the true survivor in this one. Nick Markakis, leading off the fourth inning, smashed a single off Colon's pitching hand. And even though Lowell saw Colon's hand start to swell, the pitcher remained in the game, giving up just a home run to Luke Scott to lead off the fifth.
"I'm not a rookie and I've been through this before," Colon said through first base coach/interpreter Luis Alicea. "But every start I [throw], I'm starting to feel a little bit better. I'm not the same guy I was before. I could throw harder, but now I'm a better pitcher because I feel like I can throw the ball where I want to throw it."
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.