JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring Training's laid-back atmosphere rarely draws raucous crowds. But all it took was Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon's baserunning antics on Saturday to transform Roger Dean Stadium's 4,858 fans into a rowdy bunch.
First, Colon elicited lighthearted cheers when he ripped a single down the line in the sixth, stopping at first despite ample opportunity to stretch the hit into a double. Moments later, fans roared when Eric Young boomed a fly ball to center, thinking the 265-pound Colon might score on the hit; alas, the ball hopped over the fence, forcing him to stop at third.
"Steal home!" one fan yelled as he tiptoed off the bag, where the Mets ultimately stranded him.
In his next at-bat, Colon hit a dribbler to third base. Again the crowd roared as he half-jogged, half-walked slowly to first, allowing Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee to throw him out by a step.
"Honestly, I was a little scared," Colon, a longtime American Leaguer, said of running the bases. "I haven't done that in a while. Thankfully nothing happened."
Jokes aside, Mets manager Terry Collins has gone out of his way this spring to laud Colon's athleticism despite his large frame -- and that official figure may not be close to accurate. Shortly after signing a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets, Colon reported to the team's Dominican academy so he could begin working out and hitting. According to eyewitness accounts, he developed blisters on his hands from taking so many swings.
Ultimately, the Mets don't expect much from Colon on offense this season, despite his dedication. They'll be happy simply if he pitches like he did Saturday, giving up two runs over 6 2/3 innings with three strikeouts and no walks. Roughly three-quarters of Colon's pitches were strikes.
"He was just impressive," Collins said. "This guy's a better athlete than what he's teasing you about. This guy's got great feet, he's got great hands. He was hoping he had a chance to bunt today. It's Bartolo. He's a pro."