Terry Collins and His Thoughts on Rehab Assignments

By Matt Musico

While the Mets completed a sweep of the Balitmore Orioles last night, Kevin Burkhardt, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling were talking about the many differences in the game of baseball since they were playing. Hernandez was saying that 20 years ago, players that were injured and on the disabled list didn’t have the opportunity to go on rehab assignments. They would just take batting and fielding practice before the game, watch their team play until they were healthy, then just jump right into Major League competition. This is unheard of in today’s game, and Terry Collins is taking it a step further.

In addition to sending players on rehab assignments, the Mets skipper is not only concerned with making sure his players are completely healthy before they are activated off the disabled list, but wants them to find their swing and get hot in Triple-A before they get the call to rejoin the squad. I couldn’t agree more with this idea; in fact, I’ve  been wondering why this hasn’t been happening in the first place.

If organizations have the opportunity to send an injured player on a rehab assignment, doesn’t it make sense to keep them down there until they find their stride at the plate or on the mound again? Unless their team desperately needs their presence back up in the Majors, every team should operate like this. Collins has incorporated this philosophy with Ronny Cedeno; the infielder has deemed himself healthy enough to rejoin the Mets, but New York’s manager wants to see him start hitting first before they promote him.

In Cedeno’s seven rehab games (one with St. Lucie and six with Buffalo), he’s hitting .172/.200/.172 in 29 at-bats. So, is he ready to come up and join the team to face the Yankees and the likes of Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova, and CC Sabathia? Hell no he’s not! It was refreshing to hear Collins say what Burkhardt relayed to us last night; although a rehabbing player wants to return to the Bigs as soon as possible, it will be in their best interest to regain some confidence in their rehab assignment before getting inserted back into a

Major League lineup. After hearing this situation unfold with Cedeno, it once again makes me ask the question: why didn’t they do the same thing with Jason Bay?

It was clear that before he returned from his fractured rib, there was not a glaring need for his bat in the lineup, so they should have made him earn his keep in his rehab assignment before returning to face the Yankees a couple weeks ago. I mean, they should have at least promoted him to Buffalo first instead of bringing him straight to the Majors from Single-A St. Lucie. In Bay’s nine at-bats down in Florida, he produced a triple slash of .222/.364/.222 and four strikeouts.

You’ve got to be kidding me…four strikeouts in nine at-bats? In Single-A? When he was promoted before the Subway Series, I asked the question as to why they didn’t promote him to Triple-A first, and I’m still wondering after seeing the organization do that with Chris Young, Josh Thole, Ruben Tejada, and now Ronny Cedeno. All of those players went through (or are currently going through) multiple levels of the minors before rejoining the Mets…except for Bay. He not only did he not do that, but he struggled against Single-A pitchers. The speed of a Major League game is the closest in Buffalo, so it would have made sense for the organization to send him there temporarily before re-calling him.

However, I continue to scratch my head with the way Bay’s rehab was handled before he went back on the disabled list with a concussion last Friday. No wonder it took him almost 20 at-bats to get his first hit since returning, he looked incredibly over-matched because the only pitchers he faced since the end of April were young kids in Single-A. Overall, I like Terry Collins’ philosophy on wanting his players to find their stroke again on their rehab assignment. Obviously, that wouldn’t have prevented Jason Bay from running into the left field wall at Citi Field, but it would have been nice to see him produce in Triple-A like we have been expecting him to in the Majors before roster moves were made to open up a spot for him.