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TC says second base 'open' competition

2/20/2011

Asked if second base was Luis Castillo's job to lose, manager Terry Collins indicated otherwise, saying the job is an "open" audition between Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus, Justin Turner and Castillo.

"And I told him that," Collins said, referring to his conversation with Castillo. "I tried to approach it [as], 'Why shouldn't it be you?'"

Collins said he felt badly for lamenting multiple times to the media that Castillo did not arrive early, now that he knows Castillo's older brother is set to undergo what's being labeled serious surgery Monday. Collins asked Castillo why the second baseman did not mention it during their midweek phone conversation.

"He didn't want anybody to know," Collins said. "He didn't want an excuse."

Collins said he told Castillo: "I wasn't mad you weren't here. I was selfish."

Collins had metioned even before spring training that he planned to use a lineup of Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Jason Bay and Ike Davis. However, Collins indicated that he also has lineups written down with Castillo in the No. 2 hole and Pagan in the No. 6 hole.

I still fully expect the first lineup Collins mentioned to materialize, since Castillo very likely won't make the team. Regardless, Collins said, it's important for him to have a stable lineup game to game -- that players should wake up in the morning knowing where they will play that day both in the field and in the batting order.

The sabermetric-oriented front office probably wouldn't be too keen on Castillo batting second and giving up outs by constantly bunting. I asked Collins about that point, and he mentioned that perhaps Castillo was being encouraged to bunt by the previous regime. (I believe Castillo took it upon himself and the previous staff just didn't stop it.)

Regardless, Collins said about giving up outs by having the No. 2 hitter bunt: "I'm probably not going to manage like that -- not very often."

Collins said he did not particularly want to dredge up the past, but he told Castillo a lot of very good players have moments like that dropped fly ball at Yankee Stadium, and that he should accept it and move forward. Collins said "no question about it" that believed the moment still weighed on Castillo, saying players are "proud" people.

Handicapping the race, I'd have to anoint Murphy and Emaus as favorites -- and Murphy on the team in some capacity. Asked how the Mets could have so much faith in Emaus since he has never appeared in a major league game, Collins said: "I believe in the scouts. They're the backbone of our game."

Other items from Collins' daily press conference:

• Asked if Bay could reach 30 homers, Collins acknowledged Citi Field makes that a challenge, and added: "I think he'll hit close to that."

• Collins reiterated his intention to have no captain, citing his days with the Pirates under manager Jim Leyland. "He told me there was one captain," Collins said. "It was him."

• Collins plans to give a 20-minute-or-so oration to the players at Monday's 9 a.m. meeting before the first full-squad workout. He says he'll note that inevitably there will be a three-game losing streak during the season, so deal with it and "let's go win five." Collins said one section of his speech will deal with expectations -- having your own high expectations and using naysayers as a rallying cry.

• Collins restated his intention to have Ruben Tejada work at shortstop at Triple-A Buffalo.

• With an intrasquad game Friday and first Grapefruit League game the following day, hitters will face actual pitching during the first workout Monday. "I, as a former player, hate that," Collins said, noting how it's difficult the first day of spring training to face pitchers who already have been training at the complex. Still, Collins noted, pitching coach Dan Warthen thought it would be valuable for the pitchers as games approach.