Share this article

print logo

Collins showing decisiveness

Terry Collins has been a man on the go since the New York Mets named him their manager in November. He says he has "been on a whirlwind" and he's not stopping now. Starting Monday -- yes, tomorrow -- he's going to be in Port St. Lucie, Fla., at the Mets' complex greeting early arrivals for voluntary workouts nearly three weeks before spring training officially begins.

And get this: Collins has already named his Opening Day starter (Mike Pelfrey) and settled on a batting order with Jose Reyes as his leadoff man. He's trying to minimize as many distractions as possible as he runs his first big-league camp since 1999.

"That's exactly why I did it," Collins told me when I asked about the theory prior to Friday's Bisons Hot Stove Luncheon. "There's so much attention on the New York Mets and spring training I wanted to be able to limit the questions we had to deal with. Obviously we'll have questions about [Oliver] Perez, we'll have questions about [Luis] Castillo, we've got questions about some of the fourth/fifth starters. I wanted to take a lot of the stuff from the outside and eliminate it.

"I thought the most important thing was to say Jose Reyes was going to lead off. That was a big issue last year and we got rid of that. I wanted to put a lineup together so those guys understood there would be some organization here and they would be ready for the roles they would play."

As for pitching, the No. 1 starter role was going to be a daily question with Johan Santana out at least the first half of the season. Not now. Collins has immediately tabbed Pelfrey.

"Especially in spring training, if Mike goes out and he has a bad day the first question would be, 'What are you going to do now?' " Collins said. "It was pretty simple. I thought the year Mike Pelfrey had last year the first two months he should have been on the All-Star team.

" These guys can get to spring training and start their program without worrying a lot of questions about where there will be, what their role will be."

Since his hiring, Collins has made charitable appearances, gone to the Winter Meetings, met with players individually and even met with season ticket-holders groups. He wants everyone involved with the organization -- whether in uniform or not -- to feel the Mets are moving forward.

At Thursday's function with the paying customers, he even reconnected with a seminal moment in team history.

"I pulled out the old line 'Ya Gotta Believe.' And that's a true statement," he said, referring to Tug McGraw's famous rallying cry for the 1973 National League champions. "You really have to believe you're good enough. And I've told every one of those guys.

"I told Mike Pelfrey, 'Your first start is against [Florida's] Josh Johnson and your second is against [Philadelphia's] Roy Halladay and I think you're up to the task. You showed last year your stuff is good enough, you're a good enough competitor, you're one year older and mature and this is the place you need to be.' He's all for it."

Because of the dead-weight contracts of Perez and Castillo, the Mets have been largely locked out of free-agent wars this year. Most observers thus think 2011 is a transition year before new GM Sandy Alderson can dive in to some real reconstruction next winter.

Collins refuses to accept that theory. He's in this to win.

"I don't think anybody knows my personality better than you guys, for sure," said Collins, whom this corner first interviewed early in his 1989 debut season with the Bisons. "You create expectations and I have huge expectations of myself and the job I can do. I've told the players that.

"I want them to come to spring training and have expectations of themselves. Look at our lineup. I've looked through National League lineups. we have as good a lineup as anybody. We've named the first seven spots already [Only second base is up for grabs]. If we keep the middle of that lineup together, keep [David] Wright, [Carlos] Beltran and [Jason] Bay and [Ike] Davis healthy. I think we're going to surprise some people."

Collins also gave some quick insight on the Bisons' roster as well. Ruben Tejada will be Buffalo's everyday shortstop so he can come up to New York if something happens to Reyes.

Top prospect Jenrry Mejia needs innings and will be in the Bisons' rotation unless he knocks some socks off in spring training. Lucas Duda, Buffalo's second-half masher in 2010, will split time here between left field and first base.

***

Teufel on Collins

New Bisons manager Tim Teufel had plenty of insight on the Mets as well, echoing former Herd manager Ken Oberkfell with some not-too-veiled shots at the way the Mets' system was being run under the deposed Tony Bernazard and how it improved under Collins.

"If you're going to develop managers and coaches for the big-league level, you have to give them some leeway. Terry brought that to the table," Teufel said. "He wasn't a micro-manage guy but he laid out a foundation of what he expected.

" A guy was able to make a mistake within the guidelines but learn how to manage. I give Terry a lot of credit for turning around the culture of this organization. I think that made him a front-runner for the manager's job at Citi Field. He was the guy who showed leadership skills."

***

Fashion report

Love the Bisons' new pinstriped home alternate jersey that was unveiled Friday. Make it the main home togs. Get rid of the cartoon Star Wars design.

By the way, Buster Bison switched to No. 83 last season and the Bisons said their mascot will keep that number permanently. It's emblematic of the year he debuted at War Memorial Stadium.

Buster had traditionally worn the number of the season until last year because 10 could be one requested by a player. Numbers such as 03, 08, etc. are not legal and the team didn't worry about a player wanting a number in the 90s.

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com