New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has reported to spring training camp on time. Still, it was later than manager Terry Collins had anticipated.
”I just think it sends messages. I’m sure he got the message,” Collins said Sunday. ”He’s such a good kid and he was very upset to think he’d messed up. I don’t think he understood the urgency.”
Collins had expected Tejada to be among the early arrivals so the Mets could get a head start with their new double-play combination. Tejada takes over for Jose Reyes, who took a free agent deal with the Marlins, and Daniel Murphy is set to start at second.
Collins doesn’t want Tejada thinking he has to replace Reyes’ bat, saying the Mets would be happy with his offensive performance the last few months last year. Tejada hit .319 in August and September with 11 doubles and 17 RBIs.
Anticipating Reyes might not be back, Collins said he told Tejada after the season to be prepared to play either shortstop or second base. Tejada started 53 games at second base last year, 38 at shortstop.
”I don’t know if anybody really knows the ceiling on this guy,” Collins said. ”What he did at the end of the season, we are going to press that mightily this spring, `That was good enough. Do not try to do more.”’
The 22-year-old Tejada said Sunday that he was delayed because of a visa problem in Panama, and that the embassy had been closed for a few days. He says he told Collins during an early-morning meeting that he’d been working with a trainer back home.
”I had a little problem there,” Tejada said. ”But I’m ready here today to start working hard and try to help the team.”
Through an interpreter, coach Ricky Bones, Tejada said he’d played before with Murphy in the minor leagues and called it a ”good combination.” He said he spoke with Reyes a couple times during the offseason.
Collins says he reiterated to Tejada the importance of being in camp early, and the impact that would have made on his teammates. Collins said he’s been at camp since Dec. 31.
Tejada batted .284 in 96 games last year with 36 RBIs.
Notes: Johan Santana threw about 50 pitches, about 15 more than in his previous outing. The left-hander simulated a game with rest time between clusters of pitches and batters at the plate, although no one was swinging. Santana is scheduled to throw to hitters later in the week. … While the Mets were working out, Michigan and Iona played a college game on the main field.