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WINTER MEETINGS: TERRY COLLINS

New York Mets manager Terry Collins met with the media on Day 2 of the annual Major League Baseball Winter Meetings at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland. Collins talked about everything from Yoenis Cespedes, to Zach Wheeler in the bullpen, Jose Reyes in the outfield and Tim Tebow making a spring training appearance. Below is a transcript from today’s Q&A with the Mets manager.

Start with (Yoenis) Cespedes. From your perspective how critical was he toward the first piece as anything you guys wanted to do?

TERRY COLLINS: Certainly we sat all winter long and a lot of us were preparing not to have them, but we knew in our hearts he wanted to stay. I told Sandy when Sandy called me, I said, we got Cespedes. I said, Sandy, I’m telling you, that’s a tremendous sign. I think the organization did a tremendous job stepping up, but I wasn’t surprised because I knew how bad he wanted to stay. He loves New York and he loves the stage.

Obviously there is a lot of variables in play right now, but if Granderson stays, does he play a lot of center field?

TERRY COLLINS: He will. With the dynamics and the way the club is shaping up at this moment with all we have, I think you’ve got to say Grandy has to move to center field and we’ve got to be aware that he has to keep his legs underneath him and do a good job of making sure he has time off. We’ve got a Gold Glove guy sitting on the bench and we can certainly rest him on certain days, but as we sit here today he’s going to have to play center.

Do you envision a platoon with those two guys?

TERRY COLLINS: Not a platoon. I think that Grandy is going to need some time off. I think he’s 36 years old now and that’s not old, but, you know what, playing center field in our ballpark you saw what he what it did to Ces, beats your legs up. So we need to make sure he has rest.

So you see most of his starts in center field?

TERRY COLLINS: As we’re sitting today.

How does Conforto fit into that?

TERRY COLLINS: He will probably play all around. Certainly we have to go into Spring Training and make sure Michael is ready to play all three spots.

There was talk of Jose Reyes getting some time out there in the spring, what does that look like?

TERRY COLLINS: I think if you go back to what they did in Chicago, with the ability to put guys anywhere, they were so athletic and I think when you have a guy like Jose Reyes, you gotta make use of it. Certainly I know he’s going to want to take a lot of ground balls and he needs to stay sharp in the infield, but I’ve talked to him about he’s going to have to be ready to play some center field and he’s up for the task.

How much do you stay in touch with the players in the off-season? Like David (Wright), how he’s feeling, how much he thinks he can play next season? Your expectations of him? Have you talked about that?

TERRY COLLINS: No, we have not. We have not. All we’ve talked about is where he’s at, he’s going to start some baseball activities very soon. He’s coming to Florida in January and then we will see where he’s at. This is going to be — the one thing, again, we’ve gotta do is be wise enough to understand that it’s going to take some time. We’ve gotta be patient. We can’t push this guy so hard that he’s not going to be able to play. We’ll know more when I see him. And one thing about David, he will look you in the eye and tell you where he’s at. I’m anxious to get him down in January.

Under the most optimistic circumstances, he’s going to play two, get a day off, that kind of thing?

TERRY COLLINS: Optimistically, I would like to see him play four and get a day off. Seriously, if he’s healthy enough to play why couldn’t he play four? I think he’s going to need more days off than he has in the past, but there is no reason why if he gets out of spring training and he’s playing like we know he can, then there is no reason why we — I don’t think you’re going to see eight in a row or nine in a row, but I think David will be in that lineup a lot.

Would you think about pushing him this spring to know what he’s capable of?

TERRY COLLINS: I think when he is ready to play, I think we gotta get him in games. You’re looking at a guy who hasn’t accumulated a lot of at-bats in the last two years like he normally does. We saw how he got off to the start last year when we tried to give him a lot of time off in Spring Training. I think we have to utilize minor league camp a little more with him, make sure we get him a number of at-bats without pushing the defensive side. But, again, only time will tell.

He was slow to get to that point in Spring Training last year, are you adjusting anything?

TERRY COLLINS: We won’t know until we get down there and he shows up and tells us where he’s at. David knows himself better than anybody, so if he feels he’s ready to play games or, you know, when he’s ready to get in the lineup we’re going to get him in there because I think it’s important this spring to get him extra at-bats.

Is the best case scenario for Tim Tebow in the minor league camp or do you know how it’s going to shake out?

TERRY COLLINS: I do not know how it’s going to shake out. We’re in New York. We can handle anybody with a name on his back in our camp. If they decide to send him to camp, we’ll get him better. I can tell you, I certainly hope you will see Tim Tebow in some of our games.

You have starters coming back from injuries. I know you talked about getting them time off during the season. Have you started to talk about how you will do that?

TERRY COLLINS: Number one, you’ve got to be careful in Spring Training. You can’t push ’em too hard. We talked about the possibility of during the season giving them two weeks, maybe have them skip two starts to keep them strong. We were lucky with what Gsellman and Lugo did. But like I said before, the best pitching staffs are the healthiest. So we’ve got these five horses and we gotta make sure we run ’em out there. So we’re going to be very, very diligent in trying to make sure they’re rested, we don’t overwork them, we keep an eye on not just pitch counts but their innings limits. And hopefully we break camp with all five of them and we will manage it from there.

Sandy mentioned the hypothetical possibility of Zach (Wheeler) being in the bullpen. Do you have a preference?

TERRY COLLINS: I think that’s how you approach it. We gotta get him ready to start first. He hasn’t pitched in two years. And then the innings thing, maybe he starts a year in the bullpen so we can protect the innings a little bit. But I think it’s going to be how he feels and how his command is and we will make the adjustments.

What’s your plan for Jose Reyes?

TERRY COLLINS: When he gets to camp I’m going to have him take ground balls and have him do some things in center field. As I said at the beginning, we’ve got to have options of athleticism that we can move around the field and he brings that one dynamic that we don’t have a lot of and that’s that tremendous speed.

As good as the Nats pitching staff is, do you think you dodged a bullet with Sam going to the American League?

TERRY COLLINS: Yes, no question about it. We don’t have to play the Red Sox this year either. I really thought for sure he was going to end up in Washington. I really did. We dodged a bullet.

I know there is fluidity with the bullpen and the outfield situation, but do you think you’re better equipped to handle injuries going into next season? Overall, what do you think of the team you have right now?

TERRY COLLINS: Certainly we’ve got to — I know Sandy is working hard to find another piece in the bullpen. We’ve got to make sure we’re strong at the back end. Addison did a tremendous job. If we don’t have Jeurys when the season starts, we have to have options back there. Now you’re looking at the two young guys, can they help us out back there, Gsellman or Lugo. So we have options, but we can’t afford to have all the injuries that we did last year. We’ve got to stay healthier and we are really going to work hard in spring training to try to figure out how to keep them healthy. Is it more days off for the David Wrights of the world or Neil Walker or the guys in the outfield? But we’ve got pieces and certainly we’ve got to do — manage those pieces a little bit better than we have in the past.

If you were to lose Jeury’s for any length of time, how big of a weapon is it having Addison Reed?

TERRY COLLINS: In the middle of last season, some place along the line, baseball has to come up with an award for those guys that pitch the 8th inning. That’s becoming a huge piece. You look at Addison Reed and what he’s done, and I hate to lose Jeurys for my amount of time, but we’ve got somebody that can fill that hole for us and he did a tremendous job and we’re glad to have him right now.

How difficult is it to deal with that uncertainty around Familia’s situation?

TERRY COLLINS: I think when it’s finally resolved, it will be easier to handle because certainly you don’t know what to expect. But as we said all along, once it’s over, hey, look, we gotta move. We gotta put other pieces in line. And when he’s ready to come back, we gotta get him in there and push it in the background and move forward. Certainly we hope the best for Jeurys and we hope that he’s back with us as fast as possible, but we’ve gotta fill some holes.

You’ve been open in saying you don’t know what the future holds for you personally. Have you had anytime to reflect since the season ended on what you want, how much longer you want to do this?

TERRY COLLINS: No, and Adam asked me the question. Like anything, there’s all of us standing here today, who knows if we’re all going to be here next year? You don’t. I think at the end of the year, you sit down and analyze how you are, how you feel especially when you are 67 years old. When he called me, I had two friends who passed away that I went to high school with that week and all of the sudden you’re looking in the mirror saying, Holy cow. When the season is over, I will sit down and hopefully it’s in November next year, and analyze where I’m at because I still feel great. I’ve got a lot of energy. But I don’t know if it’s going to be there or not, have to wait and see.

You have had success in making the playoffs two years in a row, how much of a carrot is actually winning the World Series for you?

TERRY COLLINS: It’s what you play for. And until you get to the World Series you don’t know how much fun it is. Certainly I talked to a lot of the coaches this winter and when you sit there and talk about it — last year we didn’t talk that much in the wintertime, we were all still buzzing from the World Series. This year we’re hungry and I think that’s going to show when we take the field in Spring Training. The energy is going to be back, the hunger is going to be back. And, again, we can keep those guys on the mound we’re going to be in good shape.

Terry, there were one or two points in the summer when you were critical of the team’s effort and said things had to change. Is that inevitable in any season or is there a message in the spring you can give to avoid that?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, as I told you, I believe in one thing: I believe the game is to be played one way, okay? I think when you have a Major League uniform on, there’s expectations. I don’t think you can ever say to yourself, woe is me, somebody else should be playing. I’m only here part-time because so-and-so is hurt. You’re a big leaguer and there are expectations when you’re playing, especially in New York City. When we weren’t playing well, it’s because we weren’t executing and you didn’t get to the big leagues without being able to execute. I know maybe the effort, you can say maybe the effort — well, I think the effort was there, I’m not sure the focus was there. Again, it’s easy to say, well, geez, we’re all hurt, we’re not — you know, everybody is on us, negative atmosphere. And we had to change it, we had to change it. I think that can happen any year. I think going into this spring, I think there is going to be revitalized energy coming in and certainly the expectations are still high. We’ve got to make sure we manage them and stay positive and stay healthy.

When you have so many guys coming off injuries and surgeries, is that a concern for you with so many guys that had season-ending stuff?

TERRY COLLINS: Number one, I think medicine is amazing, and I think they’re doing a great job. But, yeah, you’re concerned, you have to be. We’re looking at three outstanding pitchers who are coming, having surgery. And I think anytime you have surgery, there could be, you know, you may not bounce back real fast. Certainly we’re going in with trepidation of what kind of shape they’re going to be in. But I was with Matt. He looks great, feels great. Now we gotta get him out there and take our time, be patient with him. Just because he may not be ready Game 1 to throw 115 pitches, you know, we gotta look at the big picture and say, we can build him up to make sure in September he’s as strong as he was two years ago.

How open are you to having one of your starting pitchers pitching in the World Baseball Classic?

TERRY COLLINS: I think that’s great. I know how the Japanese prepare when that tournament starts. They’re going to be ready to go nine innings. If Seth wants to pitch, I’m all for it. But get ready. And that means start now, start getting yourself ready because we will do the best we can when we get him to Spring Training and make sure he’s ready to go. I think it’s great. I love the WBC, it’s fun, it’s exciting. I was talking to Jim Leyland last night. He’s going to have a great team and if we have players that get to go play in it, I think it will be a great experience for them.

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Hi, my name is John Strubel. I am a freelance sports reporter from Charleston, South Carolina. This is my personal web site and portfolio. My writing is predominantly related to my greatest passion in life: baseball. I also include stories on sports personalities, sports media, social media, and related content that impact and influence the sports industry.

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