Collins has energy, ability to lead Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Manager Terry Collins arrived at the New York Mets' spring training complex Wednesday with a sore arm, his 61-year-old body telling him that he threw too much batting practice the previous day.

The discomfort did not dull his energy.

Collins bounced throughout the clubhouse engaging players in conversations, determined to set the foundation for season-long relationships.

The diminutive manager reached into 6-foot-10 right-hander Chris Young's locker, pulled out the pitcher's baseball pants, then demonstrated for Mike Pelfrey how the pants went up to his shoulders.

Collins then suggested he just might wear Young's pants Thursday for the first pitchers and catchers workout to keep the mood light.

He proceeded to tell Pelfrey how he once met Shaquille O'Neal and was eye level with the NBA star's belt buckle.

Fans might have clamored for Wally Backman to be appointed manager, but Collins continued to demonstrate Wednesday that he has plenty of energy, too, as well as the ability to command a New York stage.

For a half-hour, he successfully and candidly navigated questions from the New York media on a variety of issues: Yes, Carlos Beltran would get first dibs at being center fielder. Jenrry Mejia belongs in Triple-A. Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell, D.J. Carrasco, Tim Byrdak and Taylor Buchholz are very likely five members of the bullpen.

Collins also showed an understanding of what not to answer. Or at least what to answer with caution.

Asked whether Beltran might benefit from strategically resting throughout the season, Collins could have offered a knee-jerk reply. Instead, Collins indicated he preferred to meet with Beltran first when the outfielder arrived in camp to discuss it.

Announcing any intention would not have risen to the level of Art Howe once revealing on MSG's "Angles" that Mike Piazza would begin taking grounders at first base before telling the All-Star. But at least Collins had recognition of the proper order.

Asked what he might say to his players once they are fully assembled here, Collins -- who has not managed since 1999 in the major leagues -- said: "I've been thinking about that since, uh, about Nov. 24 was the day I started making notes."

Collins acknowledged his firsthand knowledge of the National League particularly is lacking, and he would have to rely on coaches and the team's advance scout, at least early in the season.

As for his communication skills, he noted he made sure to speak one-on-one with plenty of players just Wednesday.

"I sat and talked with Johan [Santana] this morning," Collins said. "I've talked with David [Wright] at length. I talked to Jose [Reyes] today. I've talked with Ike [Davis]. I've pretty much hit everybody individually about some ideas and thoughts. Then I'm going to bring it all together in one big, hopefully not-too-extended speech.

"I've always believed that Feb. 21 [first full-squad workout day] is probably the biggest day of the season for me."

Collins will use the lack of external belief in the team as a rallying cry.

"I'm going to use that there's not expectations," he said. "I've lived my whole life with expectations. I expect a lot out of myself. I expect a lot out of my teams. And we're going to work toward that. We're going to talk about that on a daily basis.

"We're going to try to rebuild some confidence here. We want to rebuild some swagger here."