PHOENIX — Shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima made a point of walking across the clubhouse to greet pitcher Bartolo Colon.
The new face of the Oakland Athletics’ infield, and an old, familiar one.
Nakajima arrived in the desert Jan. 31 to get acclimated and acquainted with his teammates, while Colon showed up Monday eager and thankful for his own version of a fresh start. The right-hander received a 50-game suspension last August for a positive testosterone test and missed out on the thrilling finish to 2012 as the A’s rallied back over the final 10 games to steal the AL West crown away from Texas on the season’s final day.
Colon still must sit out the first five games of the regular season to complete his penalty. Now nearly 40 — his birthday is May 24 — he received a $3 million, one-year deal in November.
“Nueva temporada,” he said in Spanish — a new season.
“I’m happy,” he said in English.
The pitcher has yet to formally address the media since his Aug. 22 suspension, and gave no indication that he would do so any time soon.
“We know Bartolo and he knows us,” pitcher Jarrod Parker said. “We don’t need him to prove or make any statements or anything like that. We know who he is and how good he is out on the field. So we’re not pushing him for anything and I know he’s going to address us, and he’ll do it as he wants to.”
Colon alternately clapped his hands to his thighs and talked aloud to no one in particular as he crossed the field just in front of the mound through a heavy rain to have his physical in the visiting clubhouse. He re-emerged some 90 minutes later.
How’d it go? “I don’t know,” he said, raising his hands and shaking his head as he walked back, gathered his belongings and left Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the day.
Manager Bob Melvin isn’t worried about Colon getting right back in the flow with his teammates.
“He fit in very well here before and I see that being the same case,” Melvin said. “He knows most of these guys and they all liked him very much and got along with them all and actually was a nice little resource for our younger starters. So, I don’t see any problems there.”
With his suspension, Colon lost the remaining $469,945 of his $2 million base salary for last season. He also earned $750,000 in performance bonuses based on starts and $150,000 based on innings, which were not impacted by the suspension.
The Miami New Times reported late last month that Colon and other major leaguers bought human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs during 2009-12 from Biogenesis of America LLC, a now-closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables.
Colon’s teammates say they have moved on from the suspension, even if he won’t be available for the first five games this year.
“I love Bartolo. It’s awesome,” closer Grant Balfour said. “I just gave him a hug right there and said, ‘I’m glad they signed you back.’ He was a huge part of our team. That was a misfortunate toward the end of the year. You think to yourself, ‘Hey, if we had had him,’ because he’s a great player. He was missed. … He’s a strike-throwing machine. I’ve got no hard feelings. It’s over. It is what it is. You can’t hold grudges on people for the rest of their life.”
A two-time All-Star with a 171-122 career record, the burly right-hander went 10-9 with a 3.43 ERA in 24 starts for Oakland last season, his 15th in the majors. He won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award after going 21-8 for the Angels.
Nakajima said hello to Colon and several others on Day 1.
The shortstop is thrilled to be done with 7-hour spring training days in Japan that include just a 15-minute break for lunch.
“They make you push and your body is very sore,” he said through interpreter Hiroo Nishi. “I really wonder how it’s going to be. This two months is going to be a very important experimentation period for me. I just can’t wait to get my arms through the uniform. I can’t wait to get started.”
He spent the past two weeks getting to know his teammates in the desert before the first workout for pitchers and catchers Tuesday. The full squad doesn’t practice together until Sunday, though many position players are already in camp.
Nakajima wants to leave little to chance, getting a head start in everything from fielding grounders and taking batting practice as he adjusts to his new baseball surroundings.
“He’s smart. He knows that getting here early and getting to know everybody will cut down on the time where he feels like he has to fit in,” said Melvin, reigning AL Manager of the Year. “It’s something we’re very cognizant of. It’s not easy to come over from another country and be expected to do what you do on the field and still have to get acclimated to all the other things, and I think he’s combatting that by getting here early and learning quite a few things.”
Also Monday, free agent left-hander Hideki Okajima agreed to a minor league contract with the A’s pending a physical, which could take place as soon as Tuesday, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said.
Notes: RHP Michael Ynoa is still in the Dominican Republic with chicken pox, delaying the start to his first big league camp. It could be six to 10 days, Melvin said. … RHP reliever Andrew Carignan threw off a mound twice last week for his first bullpen sessions — 20 pitches each — since undergoing Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery June 19. “It’s a big step,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest one I’ve had since June.” … 1B/DH Daric Barton is sporting a three-month-old beard, which he trimmed Monday morning. “Sometimes I find a little peanut butter and jelly in it,” he said. … LHP Travis Blackley added more than 20 hours’ worth of new tattoos. The Australian had color added to existing body ink on his left leg and right arm. “I got a few. I don’t count them in numbers,” he said. “They all blend in. I stayed away from the neck. I’ll stay away from that real estate for a while.” … INF Scott Sizemore and wife, Brooke, are awaiting the birth of their baby girl — likely within the week. Sizemore suffered a season-ending left knee injury during the first full-squad spring workout last year and underwent surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.