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Collins opens Mets camp with optimistic theme

New York Mets manager Terry Collins anticipates Johan Santana will be ready for opening day. And despite drastic payroll cuts, he says the team will be a lot better than people think.

As pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday, Collins said the Mets might find their own Jeremy Lin. Collins said every team has a player like Lin, the Knicks' out-of-nowhere star, and that it's all about providing opportunities.

He planned on telling players that, too.

"We don't know who it's going to be yet," Collins said. "But every good team, there's a surprise."

During the winter when other NL East teams were loading up and the Mets were shedding talent, Collins said there was no sense of despair. He's confident in a largely no-name roster.

"It's human nature to say, 'Wow, we've got a challenge on our hands,' " Collins said. "The thing I want to get these guys to understand is it's not acceptable to say, 'Well, we're not supposed to be very good.' I will not stand for that."

Collins was optimistic about the Mets' chances despite the loss of shortstop Jose Reyes in free agency. The Mets could have a payroll of about $90 million to $95 million this year after starting last season at $120 million, not including $18 million owed released players Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo.

"I think everybody in this clubhouse is really excited for a fresh start," outfielder-first baseman Mike Baxter said. "Pessimism kind of ends at the clubhouse door."

Most position players had reported, too, well ahead of schedule.

A strong return from Santana, who threw off a mound Tuesday for the second time this year, would be a huge help. Collins said the team would be happy if it got 25-28 starts from the two-time Cy Young winner, who hasn't pitched in the majors since September 2010.

"In my mind right now, in my heart, he'll be ready," Collins said. "I don't think there's any question. This guy has worked so hard in the last 18 months to get ready."

After throwing 30 pitches off a bullpen mound, Santana said to reporters: "Suave, amigos. Everything is under control."

A little later, the left-hander was confident he'd make it back, saying he was happy with his mechanics. He was more circumspect, though, about his chances of pitching on opening day, having learned from enduring setbacks last season.

Santana expected to have a better idea later in spring training after seeing how his shoulder responded after facing major league hitters.

The 62-year-old Collins is rolling up his sleeves to face the challenge. He arrived at the training site at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday to get in a workout and some private time, hoping to set an example for players who'd check in later and see their manager on the job. A manager who'll always accentuate the positive, too.

Daniel Murphy will be his second baseman because "his bat plays and it plays real well." Center fielder Andres Torres will be the leadoff man. Collins sees plenty of promise in 22-year-old rookie Ruben Tejada, who replaces Reyes at shortstop.

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Around the horn

* Colorado Rockies pitcher Joseph Torres has been suspended for 50 games under baseball's minor league drug program for a positive test for an amphetamine.

Torres is a former first-round draft pick who is on the roster of Triple-A Colorado Springs. Major League Baseball said Tuesday that Torres will serve the suspension at the start of the season.

* The Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox have agreed on a deal that settles their dispute over what Boston should get after Theo Epstein left for Chicago. The Cubs sent right-handed reliever Chris Carpenter and a player to be named to the Red Sox for a player to be named.

* Seattle manager Eric Wedge says he will begin the season having Chone Figgins bat leadoff and hit Ichiro Suzuki third in the Mariners' batting order.

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