Mets are open for business in Florida

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- On Monday, the first day the New York Mets opened their spring-training complex for players who voluntarily chose to arrive early, first-year manager Terry Collins offered thanks to the first attendees. He then made a pledge.

"I know exactly where I came from, and where I'm going," Collins said, referring to the bulk of his career being spent overseeing farm systems, including last season as the Mets' minor league field coordinator. "And you guys are going to get me there. I haven't forgot you."

Collins delivered the message to infielder Luis Hernandez, who had 44 major league at-bats last season and is recovering from a broken bone in his right foot, as well as minor leaguers Brad Holt, Scott Moviel and Juan Lagares.

The manager said he will repeat the message acknowledging the importance of the farm system's players to an organization once the number of players participating in the workouts swells next week.

"Absolutely I meant it," Collins said afterward. "That was why I wanted to be here the first day. I'm going to be here tomorrow. I'm going to be here Wednesday. I've got a couple of things I've got to do in New York over the weekend, but next Monday I'll be back, because I know the numbers will grow. And I'm going to tell them the same thing [next] Monday."

Pitchers and catchers officially report Feb. 15. Position players report four days later.

The Mets had 55 players working out before the official reporting date last year, and they expect a similarly sized contingent -- if not more -- in Collins' first season at the managerial helm.

"I was glad to see that some guys came out, and it'll grow daily here as the word starts to spread that the complex is open now," Collins said. "I know a lot of guys last year, they'd get the message from their buddies, or get texted, that, 'Hey, we've opened it up.' And they'll start flowing down here, especially with winter and more snow setting in."

Former Mets bullpen coach Randy Niemann, who has returned to his previous role as minor league rehab coordinator based in Port St. Lucie, was on hand Monday. So was another former bullpen coach, Guy Conti. New bullpen coach Jon Debus, who lives in nearby Vero Beach, Fla., was on hand. Minor league strength and conditioning coach Jason Craig, known as Nitro, presided over the first portion of the workout.

"It's going to be an organized camp," Collins said, looking ahead to when official workouts begin. "I really believe in running spring training by the clock more than anything so that guys are on the field, get their work done and get off the field so that they get ready for tomorrow. We're very, very blessed here with a great complex."

Collins added that this year's major league camp will have fewer attendees in terms of non-roster invites than past camps held by the Mets. While Collins mentioned outfield prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis as one prospect invited who is not on the 40-man roster, the manager struggled to name any others. The belief is a smaller number of invitees will allow the core players to get more attention and repetitions and help get the Mets off to a quick start in the regular season.

"Our numbers in spring training are going to be down this year," Collins said. "This game is about repetition, repetition. We will have smaller groups where we will get a lot of reps done. We'll get a lot done, a lot accomplished, in a short period of time.

"I really believe we've got to get out of the gate [quickly]. And the only way to do that is to get your players ready to go. The more players you have, it's tough to get them at-bats, it's tough to get innings pitched, and that's the only way to get them ready, is to make sure you get them out on the field."