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MLB WINTER MEETINGS


December 5, 2011


Terry Collins


DALLAS, TEXAS

Q.  You've said all along that going back to August, September, you fully expected José to be back in a Mets uniform.  Is it surprising and what's your emotions when you hear about this?
TERRY COLLINS:  Well, obviously first of all, as I said during the summertime, if there was somebody I would pay to see play, it's José Reyes.  So there's a part of me that's disappointed.  There's certainly a large part of me that understands the process and the landscape that we face today in Major League baseball and that is free agency, and sometimes you're going to lose players you don't want to lose.
We're in that stage today, but I certainly support Sandy and John and what they had to do and how they had to go about it.  We discussed it a lot, and all along I thought we were still going to get him.  But I just sent him a text this morning, wished him luck, and told him 18 times this summer I'm going to be rooting against him.

Q.  That must have come as sort of a surprise if you felt that way and then all of a sudden the news hits that he's gone.  What was that like?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† Well, I have not talked to Jos√© once the season was over, but I knew what he was going through.¬† We had enough discussions in the last week to know that he was going to be‑‑ a lot of things on his mind, but when I saw the text this morning and what was happening, I wasn't shocked by it, I really wasn't.¬† I'm a little disappointed that we didn't get him back, but again, I am the manager of a team and he's one of my best players, so I'm disappointed I don't have him.¬† But I'm not surprised.

Q.  Did José respond to your text?
TERRY COLLINS:  Yes, he did.  He just said thank you and he had a great time, and he said I'll see you in the spring.

Q.  When you talk about the whole theoretical rebuilding thing, it's one thing for the front office to say we're going to have this period of time where we're going to be rebuilding but you're the one who's going to be out there every day with this.  How hard is this on the job you signed up for?
TERRY COLLINS:  When you sign up to win, you sign up to go out and compete, and obviously we're going to continue to do that.  You're also talking to a guy who truly believes in scouting player development and we right now have to rely on our player development.  I was a part of it two years ago.  I truly believed in what we saw last year that Lucas Duda is only going to get better, that Dillon Gee is going to be Ruben Tejada we saw get better, Justin Turner, we've got to look to our younger players to not only step up again but show that they're certainly solid everyday Major League players.

Q.  Who do you like at second base if Ruben definitely has to slide over to shortstop?
TERRY COLLINS:  As we sit here today, I think you've got to put Dan Murphy's name in that mix.  Dan Murphy and Justin Turner have got to the guys that we're going to certainly turn to at this particular point in time at second base.

Q.  You said in the past you had some concerns about Murphy's safety there.  Is that something you still think about?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† Well, I talk to‑‑ I've talked to Dan this winter.¬† He's in great shape.¬† I'm going to see him in January in Florida.¬† He's going to come down to St. Lucie and start working out, and I still think it all comes to the fact that you've got to play.¬† You've got to play more games there, you've got to have a better feel for your positioning on certain things and what you need to do, and I think the more‑‑ last spring, to be bluntly honest, we didn't give him that opportunity.¬† We had so many candidates trying out for second base that, as you remember, I played Dan at third some games, I played him at first some games, I played him sporadically at second base.¬† I think this spring going in if we concentrate and say hey, look, you're going to get the majority of your playing time at second base, I think you're going to see a little bit more comfort when he takes the field.

Q.  A lot of guys from last year will be back.  I mean, seeing this, do you think this is going to be demoralizing for them and is it something you're going to have to address in Spring Training?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† Well, we'll address it.¬† I'll address it individually.¬† I'm not going to address it as a team.¬† As I said, it's part of our business today.¬† It's not the first time that teams have lost a great player.¬† You've still got to go out and play, and I'll tell them the same thing next spring I told them this last spring or during the season, nobody feels sorry for you.¬† The Phillies, we lost Jos√© Reyes, they don't feel sorry for us right now.¬† We've got to go out and perform.¬† We've still got to execute the game.¬† That's what we've got to do a better job at.¬† We go down there, there's going to be some guys who have to pick up their play.¬† I mean, Angel right now are going to be the guys we're going to put in the lead‑off spot he becomes a huge piece of this puzzle now.¬† He's not hitting fifth or sixth.¬† He is in a position that he's got to become a guy that we can turn to to score runs.

Q.  Division gotten a little more challenging now?
TERRY COLLINS:  Oh, yeah, I knew it going in.  Before the Marlins got José, they had a very, very good club.  If they keep that big horse they've got on that mound 30 times, they're going to be something to deal with no matter who they've got.  Obviously with Heath going over there and José going over there, you know, the Nationals, their youth is just getting more experienced and better and better.  And with the Phillies, it's going to be a fun competition for sure.

Q.  Obviously Tejada is not José Reyes, but do you think he can be a better than average Major League shortstop?
TERRY COLLINS:  I don't think there's any question he can be.  That's going to be my job to let him know in Spring Training he does not have to be José Reyes.  Matter of fact, he's never going to be Jose Reyes.  Just be yourself because that is going to be certainly very, very good and very, very capable to help us be successful.
I thought he grew as the season went along.  The one thing you have to understand, it's a little different when you know that you're substituting for a guy.  Ruben is out there, he's playing very, very well to show he belongs in the Big Leagues, but he knew José was the guy.  He's now the guy.  I've got to get him to understand, look, you don't have to do any more, just continue to play as well as you did this past year.

Q.¬† I guess you're assuming at this time, you're keeping Aoki and he would be the lead‑off hitter?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† That's what I'm ‑‑ as we sit here that's most certainly what we're looking at.

Q.  Is there any possibility of doing it another way?
TERRY COLLINS:  The only guy that was brought up today that made some sense, and that would be if we wanted to make some changes, and that would be Murphy.
Wade Boggs led off for a lot of years because he got on base.  If Dan Murphy continues to hit .320 and gets on base, he doesn't have to be a base stealer, but he could be a run scorer for sure.

Q.  Do you need to talk to Angel at all?  He has had some resistance in the past.
TERRY COLLINS:¬† Yeah, I mean, I will for sure.¬† He did at one time‑‑ he did it last summer because he knew he was the guy, the most logical guy, and I'm sure if I hadn't talked to him today, I tried to get ahold of him this week, but I'm not na√Įve, he's hitting at home and he's saying I'm now the lead‑off hitter on that team and I think he should be because I think he can do all the things that need to be done in that spot.

Q.  Are you getting anxious thinking about who's going to close games for you in the next year?
TERRY COLLINS:  It's crossed my mind a few times.  I don't know where we're headed.  I know that Sandy is looking very, very hard at possible replacements.  You know, we've talked about do we take the money we have budgeted for our pitching and put it into one guy or do we spread it out and give us three or four guys or two or three guys, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that right now.  As we continue to try to groom somebody, be it Bobby, be it Henry Mejia, as he gets better this summer, do we have that back of the bullpen guy, we probably do in the organization.  So do we want to spend a lot of money and tie that spot down for a couple years?  I'm not sure how we're going to go, but I know that every possible option is being discussed.

Q.  When Mejia comes back from his Tommy John, he's going to go to the bullpen, do you think?
TERRY COLLINS:  I wish I had a say in that.  I don't.

Q.  Just because you brought him up as a possible closer.
TERRY COLLINS:  I just think down the road he's got to be a guy you consider.

Q.  Obviously you don't make the financial decisions, but how difficult is it for you as a manager given the financial constraints and the financial difficulties as opposed to a team like the Marlins that have money to burn?
TERRY COLLINS:  Well, I was a little surprised they had that much money burn.  I know their new ballpark is opening and I know they're hoping to fill it.  I don't get caught up in stuff that's going of my control.  I get caught up in what I have and what I have to work with.
We looked at pieces last year that we never put on the field and we got a chance to see some guys come up and play well.  I do believe in my heart that the reshaping of the ballpark is going to change the way David and Jason attack, and I think you're going to see much more offense out of them.
I also believe that we have two left‑handed hitters in our lineup that felt they had the run producers who had to pull the ball to hit a homer.¬† They are no longer going to have to do that.¬† I think that's going to make a difference in Duda and Ike Davis.¬† We have offensive potential.¬† We've got to pitch better.¬† We've got to pitch better and a lot of it is going to start with we have to stop some people because we lost a lot of games where we had the lead late, and if we can shore that up, I think we're going to be certainly a formidable opponent for anybody.

Q.¬† Is your rotation set with Santana, Dickie, Pelfrey, Gee or‑‑ I know you have to have depth, but is that the five‑man rotation in your mind?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† That would be right.¬† As I'm sitting here that's our five‑man rotation.

Q.  Have you talked to Johan recently?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† I talked to him right at the end of the instruction league and actually we talked about should he pitch one more time or should he rest.¬† And I said right now the way he's thrown through the summer health‑wise, I thought rest was the most important thing.

Q.  (Inaudible)
TERRY COLLINS:  I don't think there's any question.  I know that's on Sandy's mind.

Q.¬† So it's not like Gee is definitely in the final rotation‑‑
TERRY COLLINS:  As we sit here today, yeah, he's in the rotation.

Q.  You obviously can't dwell too much on losing José Reyes; he's no longer part of your team.  Can you understand the Mets' fans frustration right now?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† Of course.¬† I understand completely.¬† I'm a baseball fan, too.¬† I was mad years ago when‑‑ I grew up and my dad was a Cleveland Indians guy and they traded Rockie Colavito and I was real disappointed until I knew he went to the Tigers.¬† That's the nature of our game.¬† You've got to love the game first and understand what the business end of it is.¬† We all hate to lose players, but it happens.
Nobody was more sick than I was in Pittsburgh in '93 when Barry Bonds wasn't there anymore and Greybeck wasn't there anymore.  That's what happens.  I understand their frustrations.  But you know what, our job is to go out there and give them a product they'll be proud of, and that's the only way we can approach it each and every day, and that's what we'll continue to do.

Q.  How much of a test has this been for Wright?  During many years he's been the only healthy player on a team that was wiped out by injuries.  Was hurt last year himself, lost a lot of times, and Reyes is now let go for financial reasons.  Is that going to be a push on Wright's character or how tough is that going to be?
TERRY COLLINS:  I've been around David Wright for one full season.  You've been around him for five and six and seven years.  You know what kind of character he has.  David Wright, like anybody, like the fans, like anybody else is probably a little sad today, a little taken aback that he's losing one of his buddies that's not going to be there plus one of the best players on our team.  But all that is is a challenge for David Wright to say, hey, I've got step up.  Nobody was more frustrated at the end of last summer than David Wright was the way he played.  That's why I told you at the end of the year he came up to me and said he will get better and I truly believe it will.
But this is where in my opinion when you're in our situation, you look to your veteran guys.  You look to that veteran leadership, and that's Johan, that's David, Jason, bay, that's Pelfrey, that's Angel Pagan, the guys who have been around, that's where they've got to pick it up and pick up some of the slack and move forward and say, look, there's going to be times that David is going to get hot and we're going to ride him, and that's just how you have to play the game today.
We cannot start Spring Training sad.  It's a fresh start.  We've got to move forward because all I think we're going to do is if you look at it any other way, it puts too much pressure on the guy that's replacing him, and we should make sure he gets better.

Q.  Have you spoken to David?
TERRY COLLINS:  I'm going to call him here in about the next 30 minutes as soon as I can get a chance.

Q.  When José went on the DL the first time this year, you had talked about a concern with having to keep up the energy level on the field because he brought so much energy and making sure that Ruben was able to be animated and active and that other guys would follow that.  Is that something you have to be concerned about now and address going into Spring Training, just the on field energy level, the sprang believe thing that José brings?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† One of the things he brings is not only the energy, his enjoyment to play the game.¬† It doesn't matter if you're in a four‑game losing streak or a four‑game winning streak, he loves to play.¬† That's what we need to replace.¬† And I really am looking towards Johan, a great who's great in the clubhouse, loves to play, loves to be out there, who wants to win more than anybody, to kind of pick up some of that slack.
Again, I think there's a couple guys who are going to be a little more relaxed and enjoy it.  I think Dan Murphy brings tremendous energy to the club.  I think we can pick some of that up but ultimately believe in each other and what we can do.

Q.  Can a starting pitcher provide that for you?
TERRY COLLINS:  Absolutely, no question.

Q.¬† Is that day‑to‑day or something he can do when he's on the mound?
TERRY COLLINS:  Yeah, as a matter of fact, there's probably a day a week that he may not bring it, and that's the day he's got to focus on what he does.  So you're looking at that guy who can go around that clubhouse, especially someone the stature of Johan Santana.  I think everybody will listen.

Q.¬† Were you afraid at all‑‑ I know Sandy brought up Johan's comeback as a big factor.¬† Are you concerned you're putting eggs in the basket of a guy who didn't throw a pitch for you last year?
TERRY COLLINS:  He's healthy.  Do I know what we're going to get?  No, I don't have any idea what we're going to get.  But I know he's healthy and I know what kind of competitor this guy is and I still believe we're going to get a very, very good pitcher back.  Again, his stature and what he brings, he can deal with that.  He's not afraid of that challenge.  He's had that before.  He's had that title before, to where some of those other guys, they don't have to carry that load that Johan can carry it no matter what kind of shape he's in, as long as he can perform and go out and pitch, he'll be fine.

Q.¬† You don't go in with doubt that he's a 30‑start guy for you, though?
TERRY COLLINS:  I do not.  I think he's going to be fine.

Q.  Obviously you guys need to get the fans back.  You lost a player who was popular with the fans.  You said you've got to love the game first and understand what the business means.  When there's such an obvious loss like that, how do you try to get the fans back?  What can you do?
TERRY COLLINS:  A lot of it is my job, a lot, because we've got to go play.  This year if we get off to, again, out of the gate and have a good start and we're playing well, which I think Ruben is going to play well, and we're fun to watch, yeah, we haven't going to have that exciting, exciting guy at the top, which Angel could do, by the way, but it's still about giving the fans a product they all like to watch, like to come and see play.  If we play the way we're capable of playing and how I felt we were going to play last year, fans are going to want to come and see us play.  You win, people come out, especially in New York.  If we go perform, people are going to come, and that ultimately is our job.

Q.  You talked a lot last year about the culture change and how you needed to sort of change the perception of the team.  Do you worry that José leaving overshadows that with the fans?
TERRY COLLINS:  Well, they can.  You saw.  You were in the clubhouse every day.  People that aren't in there and didn't see perhaps a change in the way guys went about their jobs or the way they acted in the clubhouse, that can be hidden in the fact that José is gone now.  José is gone, we aren't going to be any good.  Well, that may be the case, that he's gone, which it is the case, but we've still got to put a perception out there that this team is going to be a good team, and we want to go see them play.  We're going to have those detractors.  When José was here, we had them last year.  I walked into that camp last year and had a lot of people tell me, you know, with that lineup, which I thought was going to be very good, you guys aren't going to win any games, you're still going to get beat.  What you've got to do is just go prove people wrong and take that sometimes as a challenge.  Hey, look, we've got something we've got to prove here, and that is we are good enough.

Q.  There had been some talk the other teams had asked about Murphy, they were interested in him, possibly a trade.  The way you've talked about him here, you look at him as an important piece of next year's club.  Do you think he's that integral?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† I still do.¬† Right now I do.¬† There's a lot of things that can happen here in the next three or four days or the next three or four months that I don't have‑‑ somebody could walk in and knock us off our feet with a deal and Dan Murphy is gone, or David Wright.¬† I don't know.¬† Right now I only look at the roster and I look at it about every third day of the week to see who we have.¬† He's a big piece of the puzzle right now, especially with Jos√© being out of the lineup.¬† That's why I looked at Angel, are we better off leading him in the middle of the lineup?¬† And if that's the case, do I want to put the pressure on leading Tejada off?¬† There might be that idea where, you know what, lead Dan Murphy off.¬† He just wants to hit.¬† Matter of fact, the more times you get him up there, the more hits he can get a hit, and that might be one of our options.

Q.  To the extent that you can comment, what's your impression of Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima?
TERRY COLLINS:  He's a very, very good player.  A lot of the things, the way Japanese play baseball sometimes, you can watch him play and see an American.  He's got that great balance in his stance, in his batting, got real, real good power for a middle infielder, an outstanding arm.  He was one of the guys in Japan I said, if anybody could come to the United States and perform, he can.

Q.  You guys are set at short with Ruben or have you been looking within the organization or outside the organization?
TERRY COLLINS:  No, we're pretty set at shortstop with Ruben, but if Nakajima wants to come, we'll see if we can find a hole for him.

Q.  Is there anyone that the fans haven't seen yet that might make your opening day roster and be a factor in 2012?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† I think you go into Spring Training always with an open mind that someone surprises you and jumps out at you and makes your club.¬† We've got some arms in our Minor League system that are close, Familia.¬† Matt Harvey, I wouldn't put him on that list just yet.¬† I think he has to go pitch.¬† Robert Carson, big power left‑handed pitcher that if he comes to Spring Training and throws strikes, you've got to look at him because everybody is looking for good left‑handed pitching.
Obviously Kirk Nieuwenhuis is coming off a shoulder injury, so we'd have to see if he's healthy but a guy we think is going to be an everyday outfielder.

Q.  Do you see Familia as a bullpen option or someone that could challenge Dillon for the fifth spot?
TERRY COLLINS:  I think he could do either, but with that great arm he's got and the fact he threw so many strikes last summer, he's got to be somebody we'd give a shot to.

Q.  Has Ruben been working out at all?
TERRY COLLINS:  Yeah, actually our training staff have made contact with Ruben.  Ray is actually going down to see him shortly.  Ruben has told us he's working out, he's working with a trainer to get stronger and to try to get quicker and faster, which everybody tries to do.  So that's why I've asked him if it's possible to get him into Spring Training a little earlier to see where he's at and the things we have to continue to move forward on.

Q.  Ray is going up to Panama?
TERRY COLLINS:  Yes.

Q.  How much of 2012 depends on Johan's arm?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† Well, again, I don't want to throw all the apples, but he's a big piece of our‑‑ he changes our whole rotation.¬† When you've got that lead horse in the beginning, especially the way he performs, you hear so many stories of this guy pitching with a sore arm, giving you eight innings, one hit, two hits, pitching a shutout.¬† Now that he's healthy again‑‑ and again, he may never throw 95 again, but you know what, the older you get you don't always throw that hard anyway.¬† His competitiveness, his savvy on the mound, what he can do with the ball, I think we're going to be better.

Q.  What did he tell you the last time you spoke?
TERRY COLLINS:  He said he felt great.  He said the only thing he was concerned about was his hitting right now, not his arm.

Q.  What have you heard about Norichika Aoki?
TERRY COLLINS:¬† I saw in the paper the other day that he was thinking about coming over here.¬† I don't remember him too much.¬† He was in the other division, so I don't have a lot about him.¬† You can ask me about the big right‑handed pitcher.¬† I saw a lot about him.¬† I don't know what it's going to cost to get an opportunity to sign this guy, but when I first saw him, if there was a pitcher you would want to get, he's it.¬† 6'6", power arm, picks it up when he's in trouble, power slider, great split.¬† He's got it all.¬† He's got it all.¬† If he's healthy, he's going to have a great career here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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