Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he believed Colon, 37, would be more prepared for the assignment at George M. Steinbrenner Field than other pitchers because he was throwing extensively in winter ball.
"I'm very excited," Colon said through a translator. "I'm very happy the Yankees and the manager considered me to pitch the first game. I'm ready to pitch."
Colon got his work in on a back diamond at the Yankees' complex on Tuesday, firing batting practice to hitters. His fastball seemed to have sizzle, but he also served up a long home run to catcher Russell Martin.
Colon has not pitched in the Major Leagues since July 24, 2009, when he was with the White Sox. He impressed the Yankees' scouts by going 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in seven starts over 37 1/3 innings for Aguilas Cibaenas, the Dominican Winter League club managed by Yankees bench coach Tony Pena.
The Yankees have lined up their rotation to have Ivan Nova pitch the second Grapefruit League contest on the road against the Phillies, and will then fall into line with CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia set to follow.
Girardi said that there was no final decision made on how he would set Burnett and Hughes to begin the season.
"Things might bounce around a little bit, but right now that's how we have them lined up," Girardi said. "To me, whoever's pitching that day is your No. 1 starter."
Sergio Mitre, also in contention for one of the Yankees' rotation spots, will instead be available in relief the first time through the pitching order.