Ruben Tejada has a visa issue and will pick up his papers at the U.S. embassy in his native Panama on Thursday, Collins said. Tejada is expected to arrive in camp Saturday, the day position players are due to report, according to Collins.
The manager wanted to see Tejada in camp earlier so that he can work with double-play partner Daniel Murphy and the Mets can begin moving beyond the Reyes era at shortstop.
"I am a little surprised," Collins said Wednesday regarding Tejada's absence, after the first official pitchers and catchers workout. "A lot of it is just selfishness on my part. I take great pride in the game itself, and respecting the game. I wish everybody had the same respect for it to want to get started as early as possible. So I know Ruben will come in great shape. I know he'll be ready to go. I just wish he was here."
An official familiar with Tejada's situation said the shortstop's visa had not been flagged, and that there is nothing wrong with his application. The person said that the date Tejada had been given to report to the embassy turned out to be a holiday, and the embassy was closed. The embassy reopens Thursday.
Collins expressed similar disappointment with then-second baseman Luis Castillo not coming to camp early a year ago, since Castillo was trying to prove to team officials he merited a roster spot. Castillo ultimately was released late in spring training with one year and $6 million remaining on his contract.
Tejada is not in jeopardy of a similar fate. The Mets signed Ronny Cedeno as a middle-infield backup, but Tejada is slated to be the full-time shortstop.
Collins tried to speak carefully because he knows he cannot mandate players arrive earlier than required.
"Obviously I want him here," Collins said about Tejada. "I want him here. I'm well aware of all the dynamics of trying to get those players out of the Latin countries and get them here with visa issues. I understand that those guys have to pay out of their own pockets if they come over here early. I want to get him in here. ... It's never too soon to start working on your trade, especially with a new second baseman. There will obviously be a lot of work to do when he gets in."
During an offseason conversation, Collins had suggested to Tejada to arrive early.
"I didn't spell it out. I pretty much suggested to get down here early," Collins said. "I probably should have spelled it out."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com.