TORONTO -- The toothy grin Bartolo Colon flashed to no one and everyone in particular at his clubhouse locker told the whole story. Having once believed his big league career might be over, Colon was going to make this a night worth celebrating.
Out of the Majors entirely last season, Colon struck out seven and pitched into the seventh inning as he logged his first win in nearly 23 months, helping the Yankees to a 6-2 victory over the Blue Jays on Wednesday at Rogers Centre.
"I am very surprised," Colon said through an interpreter, "since Spring Training up to now, of everything I've been doing."
Colon might be the only one who still is, at least among the Yankees. Already one of the most impressive stories from the young season, Colon showed up in camp with no guarantees and largely as a curiosity for the coaching staff.
But Colon's spring convinced many that he was for real. Showcasing the excellent control that helped him win the 2005 American League Cy Young Award, Colon snatched a roster spot and was pushed into starting duty when Phil Hughes went on the disabled list last week.
"I don't think it's amazing at all," Alex Rodriguez said. "I just think he's a very, very good pitcher. You saw what he did in '05 when he won the Cy Young. Bartolo is just a natural pitcher. He can throw forever. He has a rubber arm. He could probably throw again tomorrow."
The Yankees won't ask that much, but they will continue to give Colon the ball on a regular basis. Colon said that he plans to bring the Nike spikes he used, still flecked with Rogers Centre mound dirt, back to the Dominican Republic.
"It's very special for me," Colon said. "The shoes that I wore today, I'm going to keep them in my house so I can keep them as a memory."
Leaving Toronto's hitters guessing, the right-handed Colon dotted the strike zone and hit his spots, limiting the Blue Jays to two runs on five hits while walking one. After J.P. Arencibia's solo homer in the second inning, Colon retired 12 straight.
"I definitely wasn't surprised, because that's what he's been doing all the way from the beginning of Spring Training," catcher Russell Martin said. "When you think about it, it's pretty sweet for him to take that much time off from throwing in the big leagues. He's acting like he hasn't missed a beat."
The Yankees might have gulped in the beginning, as Colon's pitches were up in the zone and Arencibia took him out to left. But then the whole tenor of the night changed.
"I just think he got comfortable -- he got on a roll and started locating the ball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "To me, it's really who he is. He was a power arm, but he really knew how to locate, and that's what he's doing."
Girardi had to go to the mound in the seventh with Colon tiring, asking A-Rod to serve as an interpreter.
Colon convinced Girardi to give him one more hitter, and then the Blue Jays offered a gift: Travis Snider hammered a single to right field and Arencibia raced head-down to third base, only to find it already occupied by Edwin Encarnacion.
Mark Teixeira tagged both runners to be sure, and Arencibia was ruled out, leaving runners at the corners with two outs. Dave Robertson allowed a run-scoring single to Jayson Nix but then struck out John McDonald to strand two men aboard.
"We had a couple of opportunities, particularly in the latter part of the game," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We were just unable to get the hit that allowed us to either tack on or put up a crooked number."
By then, the Yankees had built a hearty lead off left-hander Brett Cecil, who was hit for five runs in five innings.
Robinson Cano knocked in a first-inning run with a groundout, and the Yankees added a pair of runs in the second inning as Curtis Granderson laced an RBI triple and Derek Jeter punched a run-scoring groundout.
New York added a pair of sacrifice flies off Cecil in the fifth, with Rodriguez and Cano lifting fly balls to bring home the fourth and fifth Yankees runs.
Granderson added a solo homer in the ninth off Frank Francisco, teeing off on a first-pitch fastball and clearing the wall for the third straight game and his sixth of the year.
"I think what you're seeing is more consistent contact and hitting the ball harder from him," Girardi said.
With Mariano Rivera unavailable, Rafael Soriano followed outings from Boone Logan and Lance Pendleton, recording the last two outs for his first save in a Yankees uniform.
"It feels good," Soriano said. "Every time Mariano cannot pitch, they give me the opportunity to finish the game. [Girardi] told me, 'If something happens, you've got the ninth.'"
But this night belonged to Colon, who hadn't made a big league start since July 24, 2009, for the White Sox at Detroit.
Colon mentioned that he was occupied dealing with family issues at home that year but declined to go into more detail. It sufficed to explain that Colon was not sure he would ever have a moment like this.
"I never thought I was going to come back and play baseball again -- it crossed my mind," Colon said. "It's very important for me. But it's my first start. We'll see what happens the next time I pitch."