NEW YORK (AP) – Bartolo Colon always had the blazing fastball, the snappy sinker, the natural look of a No. 1 starter.

Still, something was missing: consistency.

So he learned to pull back a bit, focus on throwing strikes and getting grounders. Now, he’s the dominant ace everyone envisioned, and he has an American League Cy Young Award to prove it.

Colon won a surprisingly one-sided vote Tuesday, beating out reliever Mariano Rivera and becoming the first Angels pitcher in 41 years to take home the honor.

“If I can get an out with one or two pitches and use my sinker or my cutter, I’m better off,” Colon said through a translator. “I stopped being a village boy, thinking that I can throw any stone, any rock through a wall, and started thinking about being a guy that could last longer, to take some off my fastball and not to depend only on throwing hard.”

Colon, who led the league with 21 wins, was listed first on 17 ballots and second on the other 11 for 118 points in voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He was the only pitcher named on every ballot, easily topping Rivera, who received 68 points.

The New York Yankees’ closer got eight first-place votes for the highest finish of his career, while 2004 winner Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins received three and came in third.

“After the season, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it a lot,” Colon said during a conference call from the Dominican Republic. “And one of the prevailing thoughts was the fact that maybe I won’t get it. Maybe it was going to go to somebody else. A lot of crazy things came into my head.”

Dean Chance was the only other Cy Young Award winner in the Angels’ 45-season history, winning in 1964.

Though Colon (21-8) was the league’s only 20-game winner, this year’s Cy Young race was thought to be close. His 3.48 ERA and 157 strikeouts ranked eighth, while Rivera racked up 43 saves and a career-best 1.38 ERA. Santana went 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA and led the majors with 238 strikeouts.

A shoulder injury sidelined Colon in the playoffs, but voting for all BBWAA awards takes place at the end of the regular season and excludes postseason performance.

“Mariano had a great year,” Colon said, thanking Rivera for teaching him how to throw his cut fastball. “I did think about the fact that maybe he was going to come away and be the winner.”

Both pitched for division champions, but the voters ultimately gave more weight to the starter: Colon threw 222 2-3 innings to Rivera’s 78 1-3.

And despite pitching with back pain all season, Colon issued a career-low 43 walks.

“Obviously, it’s made me a more complete pitcher and I’m very happy about that,” he said.

The award was big news in Altamira, Colon’s hometown of about 3,000 people.

“You don’t even imagine what the scenery is around here. People stopping by and honking their horns,” he said. “It’s been really, really crazy, crazy, crazy. It’s the first time ever that we are celebrating something like this. … There’s going to be a lot of partying.”

Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Colon wasn’t much help in the playoffs.

He lost Game 1 to the Yankees in the first round, then left Game 5 after only 23 pitches because of inflammation in his right shoulder.

“We would not have been in the position that we were without the year that Bartolo had,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s got an incredible work ethic.

“His ability to turn his fastball into three different looks is really the key to what he does on the mound. To combine the velocity with the command that he has is a unique package. It puts him in an elite group.”

Colon’s injury kept him off the roster for the AL championship series against Chicago, and the Angels were eliminated in five games by the White Sox, who went on to a World Series sweep of Houston.

“I really, desperately wanted to pitch against the White Sox,” Colon said. “Mike Scioscia knows the pain that I felt, how hard it was for me to come out of that game and leave the team behind like that.”

Cleveland Indians left-hander Cliff Lee came in fourth with eight points, and Mark Buehrle of the White Sox was fifth with five.

Colon gets a $500,000 bonus for winning the award.

– more than the entire salary of Lee, who made $345,000. Buehrle receives $60,000 for finishing fifth.

AP-ES-11-08-05 1842EST

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