"What I really liked was his third inning, because all of a sudden he started to get down in the zone, and then he started to get some really good movement on his secondary stuff," Johnson said after the PawSox defeated the Norfolk Tides, 4-2, in the first half of an International League doubleheader. "I was really impressed with it."
Colon, the 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner when he was with the Angels, made his first appearance since he was placed on the disabled list on April 7 [retroactive to April 4] with a strained right oblique muscle.
He had pitched the season opener for Pawtucket on April 3, which was when he incurred the injury.
The 34-year-old right-hander was scheduled to throw 55 pitches or three innings, and wound up throwing 36 of 49 pitches for strikes.
Colon allowed one run on four hits over three innings. He struck out two and didn't issue any walks.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Colon should make his next rehab start Thursday at Buffalo.
Norfolk scored its run in the second inning when Mike Costanzo singled with one out, advanced to second base on Omir Santos' grounder to first, and came home on Brandon Fahey's line single to right field.
"I think he was trying to command his fastball early," Johnson said. "But he was a little bit elevated and he gave up a few hits."
Colon, who topped out at 97 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun, worked his way out of a first-inning jam.
Elder Torres flared a one-out, opposite-field single to left and advanced to second on Luis Ferriero's lined single to right.
Oscar Salazar followed with a hard grounder wide of third that Keith Ginter turned into a forceout at second.
Colon then struck out Scott Moore on a fastball that registered 94 on the radar gun. He retired the side in order in the third on only nine pitches.
Torres flied out to left field, Ferreiro grounded out to short and Salazar bounced out to second.
"The third inning was really, really good and he looked like he was just starting to roll," Johnson said. "But that's all we were going to give him for tonight."
Johnson felt Colon used all four of his pitches and each had movement.
"He threw his slider, fastball, two-seamer and changeup," Johnson said, "and his stuff was moving all over the place. He threw some changeups early in the ballgame."
In two starts for the PawSox, Colon is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA, one walk and seven strikeouts.
"The biggest thing is he just went down to Florida [on May 5 for an extended spring training appearance against Baltimore] and threw two innings and 35 pitches," Johnson said. "We were able to get him close to 50 [pitches].
"He felt good afterwards. He didn't have any problems and that was the key to the whole thing."
First baseman Sean Casey, who completed a two-game rehab stint because of a right hip strain, also was impressed with Colon.
"I think Bartolo looked great," Casey said. "It would be a big plus if he could keep doing that stuff. I looked up a couple of times [at the radar gun board] and saw 97, 95. If he's doing that stuff, it's going to play in the big leagues."
Mike Scandura is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.