This afternoon, Terry Collins met with reporters for roughly 30 minutes. He covered pretty much every topic imaginable. Below are in depth highlights of the news conference. Where it’s merited, Rising Apple’s thoughts are below Collins’ answers:
On which positions are set-
Our four infielders are pretty much set. I think our catching situation is in good hands…we brought John Buck in for a reason. The outfield situation, Lucas [Duda] is gonna be in left and the other two spots we’ll see what the best fits are. Are we gonna platoon? I don’t know. We might. But we’ve got some names, and we’re gonna give them the chance to win some jobs.
On Frank Francisco being shut down with elbow inflammation and the potential ramifications-
Well he’s not throwing…we’ll take a look at it. I talked to him last week. He did play catch, there was some inflammation in there…the training staff was prepared for it, they thought it might happen…Frank told me last week ‘I’ll be ready’. Dan [Warthen] and I have picked some dates of importance so that we’ll know he’ll have the innings necessary to be ready for the beginning of the season. If he meets those dates I think he’ll be on track. If he doesn’t, we’ll have to go in another direction.
On who could close if Francisco couldn’t-
I think Brandon Lyon is in the mix, Bobby [Parnell] is certainly in the mix…we’ll take a look at those as we get into camp…I’ll tell you I’m gonna use Josh Edgin a couple of times in the 9th inning (during the spring) to see how he responds to it.
…After the press conference, Collins told reporters that he’s informed Bobby Parnell that he would be the closer in the event Frank Francisco isn’t a go for opening day.
On Brandon Hicks being a lock for the bench-
I don’t think anybody has the inside track right now. Brandon was brought in as that guy, but we also brought in Omar Quintanilla who did a tremendous job for us last year. We got Justin Turner, so we’ve got some names. Brian Bixler has been a utility player in the big leagues. We’re gonna pick out the best guy.
…the bench should consist of a backup catcher (likely Anthony Recker or Landon Powell), one of Kirk Niuewnhuis and Collin Cowgill (whoever isn’t starting that day), an outfielder (likely Marlon Byrd or Andrew Brown), and two others. I think it’s safe to assume that Justin Turner will make the club. That would seem to leave the last spot down to Hicks, Quintanilla, or Bixler.
On whether two lefty relievers will break camp, and if Pedro Feliciano has a leg up-
Certainly I think he’s [Feliciano] got a leg up…if there’s still something in the arm to continue to get that done, he’s gotta be that guy you use nightly to face one guy. But we brought Scott Rice in for a reason. I called Scott Rice when the season was over, I talked to Paul DePodesta and he said this guy is a legit lefthander, this guy can pitch multiple innings for you. I’m anxious to see him. We know what Robert Carson can do. I think he’s certainly gonna have a bright future. We like Josh Edgin. Aaron Laffey’s a guy who can give you multiple innings…it’s a long camp.
…Collins indicates above that Feliciano is a lock if healthy. That’s a big if, though.
On Jordany Valdepsin’s role-
He only played a few games at 2nd base all winter. He played mostly outfield, gives us a lot of options. He really had a good winter ball. You certainly can’t make your team on winter ball…he got a lot of base on balls the 2nd half of winter ball season, his on base percentage was outstanding. I wanna see him a little bit more in the outfield, but certainly, with what he did last year off the bench for us, he’s gotta be a candidate.
On the chances of Zack Wheeler breaking camp-
Everybody’s got a chance. I talked to Zack the other day. As we sit here today, no..we have five starters. He wants to be on the staff? Go be the best starter in AAA, force us to call you up.
…Barring an injury to one of the current members of the rotation, Zack Wheeler has no shot at making the opening day roster. Even if one of the starters were to go down, it’s highly likely the Mets would go with Jenrry Mejia, Jeremy Hefner, or Collin McHugh to open the season.
On Zach Lutz in the outfield-
We gotta get him some at bats because he’s a legitimate candidate for right handed bench guy…he’s been here every day working in the outfield…if he swings his bat the way he’s capable, we gotta put his name on the list.
…If Lutz can prove capable in the outfield, he may actually have a shot to make the team. Still, he’d likely have to beat out both Andrew Brown and Marlon Byrd.
On what the likely center field platoon will be –
Kirk [Nieuwenhuis] and [Collin] Cowgill, and we’ll see how Marlon Byrd does.
…the Byrd line is a bit scary. But Collins always says semi-crazy stuff this time of year (such as Luis Hernandez potentially being his starting second baseman a few years ago).
On Johan Santana being the opening day starter-
We had a very long conversation yesterday. One of the things that he said is that the rest did him good. It’s the first time in 3 years he hasn’t had to rehab something. God forbid something happens between now and April 1st, he’s gonna be there April 1st.
Stemming from the R.A. Dickey trade and emphasis on draft pick protection, Collins was asked how he’d keep the team focused, and whether or not the team has a shot at contending-
It’s tough in New York because it’s the biggest stage there is. We can sit there tomorrow and I can give you a list of a number of teams nobody expected anything of. Most recent were the Oakland A’s…now, a lot of things have to go right…you have to get big years out of guys you don’t expect, huge years. But it can happen, and there’s no reason why it can’t happen here…we’ve got some young players…you hear a lot of guys saying ‘all I want is a chance.’ Guess what, we got some chances here, boys. There are some here. Who wants ‘em. And not only who wants ‘em, what are you gonna do if you get it? If you’re just satisfied at making the big league club, you’re gonna have trouble.
On who would get the call if there’s an early rotation injury-
Some people ranked [Zack] Wheeler 6 (first in line to replace an injured starter), some ranked him 7. There’s Jeremy Hefner…Jenrry Mejia’s in that mix. Aaron Laffey is there…we’re gonna need number 6 and number 7…and we’re gonna keep a close eye on Zack. If he pitches his way to the big leagues, we’re gonna be pretty happy.
On his status as a “lame duck” manager-
I don’t need any guarantees…Walter Alston had 23 years as a lame duck manager. You go do your job. That’s what I’m gonna do…my job each and every day.
On the team needing to improve each day and each year-
[Ruben] Tejada has gotta play better. Murph [Daniel Murphy], he had a great year – gotta be better. Ike [Davis] had a great year. Guess what? He’s gotta play a little bit better.
On when Jenrry Mejia’s visa issue might be resolved-
I have no idea when jenrry is gonna be here.
On the amount of players who are in camp early-
It’s unbelievable…19 major league hitters. ..to see the number of guys out here, it’s very encouraging. I told Ruben [Tejada] the snow scared him down here, but it’s good to have him here. And I think it shows a lot. When the biggest star on your team is here for two weeks previous to everybody else showing up it speaks volumes. Ike [Davis] came in right after the banquet…it tells you they’re dedicated to show some success.
On clubhouse chemistry-
I’ve been here, this is my third year. We’ve yet to have an issue in the clubhouse. Maybe we need one (he was joking). But our guys get along, they like each-other, they root for each-other…it just goes to show you that there’s something good about guys playing together. If you look at some of the things that happened in the last few years, if we had a bad clubhouse, we’d be getting slaughtered. But we’re not. We compete, because these guys really care about each-other. Now we gotta just start winning together.
…Collins isn’t wrong that the players genuinely seem to have a good rapport with each-other. Still, there was a major issue down the stretch last season when Collins accused the team of quitting on him. That bears watching.
On whether he views Lucas Duda as the everyday left fielder, and on Duda’s potential-
I think he’s the everyday left fielder. I think he’s earned it…I think he’s comfortable out there…if he’s comfortable I think he’ll show us the offense we all know he’s capable of having. I think if he stays within himself, stays with the game he brought to the big leagues two years ago…this guy is gonna hit home runs. Outside of Mike Stanton, he’s the biggest strongest guy in the league. I told him if you hit .275, you’re gonna hit 35 home runs. But you gotta hit some balls to left center field – that’s what got you here. And don’t go away from your strength. That’s the biggest mistake young guys make…if you got here because you drove the ball the other way, you gotta continue to do so.
I would…there was a time when we were playing really well last year, really really hot. The leadoff hitter was Mike Baxter. He walked, he had big at bats, he was swinging the bat great..I can see that scenario happening.
On the recent second half of the season failures-
We gotta make some adjustments in mid-season. But we need to get out of the gate (hot) again.
On whether he has one particular concern over all others-
Our bullpen has gotta pitch better…I think our starting pitching is comparable (to last year). We gotta find that guy to pitch into the 7th inning…if we’re gonna be a 6 inning pitching staff, we’re gonna wear our bullpen out by the end of May. That can’t happen.
On the likely backup catcher and Travis d’Arnaud –
The situation with Travis d’Arnaud is he’s gotta play every day. If he makes the big league club, he’s gotta play everyday. We brought in Anthony Recker and Landon Powell. Those two guys are probably gonna battle it out if John Buck is the every day guy. Both guys have major league experience and they bring some power to that spot.
…In order for d’Arnaud to break camp with the team, multiple catchers would likely have to get hurt. If not, d’Arnaud will head to AAA for at least the first 20 days in order for the Mets to ensure an extra year of team control.
On potentially making David Wright the official captain-
We haven’t really talked about it yet. I’m going to, but he knows he’s the guy. He knows he’s the man here. He’s the face of it. Does he need a “C” on his jersey? Number 2 (Derek Jeter) doesn’t have a “C” on his jersey. Are we gonna have a press conference to put a “C” on his jersey? I don’t see one coming, but I’m not saying it’s not gonna happen.
On whether Matt Harvey is on an innings limit, and Harvey’s potential-
Not that I’m aware of. You’re looking at a guy we think can go 200, 205 innings…I’m telling you, if Matt Harvey goes 210 innings, this guy is gonna win 17 games. You don’t go 210 innings with his stuff and not win baseball games…he has that rough edge to him, it’s legit. I know they say Zack [Wheeler] is a little low key. A lot of guys are different…I had dinner with [Sandy] Koufax the other night, and he said the one thing he and Don [Drysdale] did, they made each-other compete against on another, and they had different personalities. I’m excited to see how this mix goes when the time comes and these two guys are on the same staff.