Mets marvel at Bartolo Colon's skills as a pitcher -- and a fielder, despite his size
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LAS VEGAS - One morning earlier in spring training, as the rest of the Mets' pitchers sweated through sprints, Bartolo Colon quietly excused himself.
"You don't even want to watch us run?" veteran reliever Jose Valverde jabbed in Spanish.
"No," Colon said as he retired to the clubhouse.
Officially listed at 5-11, 265 pounds, Colon has a flabby physique that often has obscured his accomplishments. And in some ways, his big body has become more of a calling card than the Cy Young Award he won in 2005.
But the Mets have quickly learned to appreciate his athleticism, which he flashed again Saturday when the Mets beat the Cubs, 9-4, in the first of two exhibition games in Las Vegas.
In the fifth inning, a crowd of 9,106 let out a gasp when Cubs leftfielder Matt Szczur sent a screaming one-hopper toward the pitcher's mound. A lesser fielder would have been overmatched. Colon picked it cleanly before throwing a strike to first.
"This guy's athletic," Mets manager Terry Collins said before the game. "He's got one of the best pickoff moves in the game. In order to have a good pickoff move, you've got to have quick feet. You would think he's 175 pounds. He's not that."
Yet he's flexible enough to stretch his leg while resting his foot on top of a 5-foot fence. He's nimble enough to charge off the mound and field bunts with his bare hand. He's coordinated enough to repeat a simple delivery that once allowed him to throw 38 consecutive strikes.
"It was masterful," David Wright said after a recent scrimmage in which Colon picked apart hitters with his pinpoint command.
While they were teammates on the Yankees, Curtis Granderson said he couldn't recall an instance of not wanting the ball to be hit to Colon. Nor did he remember teams trying to bunt against him.
"He's quick," Granderson said. "He's agile when he needs to be."
Against the Cubs, Colon allowed four runs and seven hits in 42/3 innings. He also surrendered a pair of long homers to slugger Anthony Rizzo.
"It's spring training, no worries," Colon said through a translator.
Collins seemed equally unconcerned, noting that Colon often needed three or fewer pitches to the Cubs hitters he faced.
"He's exactly as he's been advertised," Collins said. "A strike-throwing machine."