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Saturday, February 25, 2012
TC: Tejada drama ends at 8 sharp Sunday

By Adam Rubin

Terry Collins said his week-long public drama with not-late-but-not-early-either shortstop Ruben Tejada will be over at 8 a.m. Sunday, when the manager plans to meet with Jose Reyes’ successor.

Tejada was due to land in Miami at 3 p.m. Saturday after traveling from his native Panama. Position players are required to officially report today, but that only means being in the vicinity of the complex -- not at the complex working out.

Collins has expressed disappointment Tejada did not arrive early to work with new double-play partner Daniel Murphy as well as to bulk up for the grind of a long season.

“I know that everybody is waiting for Ruben to come in, and I understand it all. I’m not going to yell and scream at Ruben Tejada,” Collins said. “First of all, he’s one of the nicest, finest kids I’ve ever met in my life. All I want to find is an explanation and get him to understand that there’s priorities. I’ve already sent word out that he’s not talking to anybody until he talks to me, because we’re going to end this thing. It’s going to be over tomorrow at 8 o’clock in the morning.

“And, I will bet my paycheck, when he walks in, he may be the best-conditioned guy in this camp. It’s about some other things. I wished he was here. It’s important that he is here. I happen to take big pride in the fact my teams get prepared. It would have been nice to have him here. That’s all I’m going to tell him.

“One hundred and eighty days of this, it drags you,” Collins continued, referring to the length of the regular season. “So I want to make sure he’s bigger and stronger, so he can endure this season -- that he doesn’t need two days a week off. I want to work on his agility, his quickness. It’s not that it’s bad. I’m just trying to see if we can get him better. And we have all the facilities and all the people here to do it.

“I wanted him here in January. I knew Murph was going to be here. And I wanted to get all the dynamics of getting used to each other done so that Monday [for the first official full-squad workout] we can attack it without having any of that, ‘Hey, look, you have to do some extra work with Dan Murphy today because you have to get used to each other.’ That should have been over with. So that’s what my issues were. I’m not mad. I mean, I’m disappointed he’s not here. I’m not mad at Ruben Tejada. He’s too a kid to be mad at.”

Collins has penciled Tejada into the No. 8 slot in the lineup, in part because Josh Thole will bat seventh. (Slow-footed catchers in the No. 8 slot are not ideal because it is difficult for the pitcher to bunt them over, as Collins experienced as far back as his Pittsburgh Pirates days on the staff of Jim Leyland, when catcher Mike LaValliere batted seventh for that same reason.)

Tejada is not quick by any stretch of the imagination, but Collins believes he still could steal 15 bases this season if he is taught the proper technique. Tejada had only five steals and six attempts in 96 games with the Mets last season.

“When you teach base-stealing, it’s about your leads, it’s about your reads, it’s about getting started,” Collins said. “Years ago, when we did it with the Dodgers, we brought track coaches in, guys that were experts in getting started. So all of that stuff I want to work at. We will work at it. It’s just we won’t get a head start at it.”

Collins also plans to bring up Reyes’ departure with Tejada.

“It’s going to be talked about. Exactly,” Collins said. “First of all, [Tejada] may have a career year. I don’t have any idea. But it’s one thing when you are going to play with the pressures of being the backup, knowing that Jose is five days away from playing, or two days away from playing, or just getting a day off. The same at second [base]. He’s playing second base and he knows that there are other guys that are going to protect him. He can have some days off, stay rested.

“It’s another thing when you are the guy, when you’re the guy that people are going to be leaning on. You’re the guy that’s going to be out there every day. I’m not going to compare this kid with Jose Reyes. I want him to be himself. But, for me, there’s a process, that respect for the game, that says, ‘Hey, look, I’m going to come in and I’m going to be ready because I know what’s expected of me.’

“And I’ve already heard he had two or three appointments at the embassy canceled [to pick up the work visa]. They were canceled for various reasons and he tried. But Jose has been gone since December. That’s been my thing.”