Mets manager Terry Collins was kind enough to spend a few minutes with a group of Mets bloggers this evening, and Matthew Artus and I were on the call. A couple of highlights:
About that sacrifice bunting thing:
Basically, that's been directed at the pitching - at our pitching staff and its sacrifice bunting. ...It's not that we're going to play small ball. It's not that we're going to ask some of our position players to move our runners along. We want our pitching staff, when we call upon them to move a runner along, that that out is productive, and that is moving somebody up.
On the hit-and-run:
The hit-and-run is basically for guys who can handle the bat but aren’t really good hitters. ...I think we’ve got to very careful if we’re going to hit-and-run very much.
The full transcript is below.
Steve Keane (Kranepool Society): The use of video by the club – most teams in baseball use the video for watching hitters, watching pitchers, different things – do you use the video to do anything with the defense, especially with the emphasis that you have on building up the fundamentals of the team and cutting down on the errors? Do you ever have a sessions, like a classroom session, with the players, especially now in spring training, where you sit down with players and point out different things that were done, like missing cut-off men, positioning better on defense, and trying to use that as a tool to help better the fundamentals of the club and shore up the defense?
Terry Collins: Well we use video all the time. We don’t have a classroom sessions, but we do more using the video on setups, pre-pitch setups. One of the things we are stressing this spring is anticipation, first-step quickness, first-step reaction that we have seen in the past. We use video to compare fielding techniques, to make sure the guys are in proper position. You really don’t too much on overthrowing cut-offs because that’s pretty much a given. That’s about release point, that’s about concentration, that really has nothing to do with mechanical things. Video’s most used when you’re talking about the mechanics of whatever function you’re dealing with, be it pitching, be it hitting, that type of stuff.
Greg Prince (Faith and Fear in Flushing): I’m wondering, you know, next week you start playing some exhibition games. I was wondering if you could take us through just a little bit what you look for in the first week of exhibition games versus what you’re looking for, say, in the third week, what you’re looking for as you begin to put your actual team together, how the mistakes might start to melt away, when you start getting concerned? What’s top of mind for the next few weeks?
Terry Collins: The first few games, it’s about applying the fundamentals we’re working on, such as pitching. We really believe in making sure you’re pounding the strike zone with your stuff. And so I’m looking to make sure that what we’re doing right now with our pitchers in the bullpen sessions – let’s start commanding the strike zone, let’s start commanding our fastball. Fire and foremost, let’s command the fastball. In the first few games, because guys are getting their arms in shape, it’s not about velocity; it’s about how their command is doing.
On the hitters’ side, last year we had been talking about all year long, our on-base percentage last year was outstanding. We have a philosophy about working the count, making sure we’re seeing pitches, making sure the pitcher’s working. You’ve got to start that early in spring training to start seeing more pitches. The more pitches you see, you do a better job of pitch recognition, you do a better job of ultimately getting a pitch that you can handle. I want to start to see the execution of our philosophies early.
And then as camp goes on, then you start to see – hey look, is the bat speed there? On the pitchers’ side, is the velocity there, if he’s got a breaking ball? In the case of Mike Pelfrey, we’ve seen a good sinker on the sideline here so far here in his first three of four bullpen outings. Is he taking it into the game with him? Is that sinker enough to be effective in the game? That’s one of the things that we start to look at as we dwindle down spring training: are we executing the things we worked on early?
Ed Marcus (Real Dirty Mets Blog): My question for you is about Pedro Beato. If by chance he does not make the team out of spring training, there’s been some talk that he might be converted into a starting pitcher. Can you see that happening?
Terry Collins: That’s something that will probably be determined late in spring if he doesn’t make this club as a reliever. I mentioned last year, this guy’s got four plus-major league pitches. That tells me that he could possibly be a starting pitcher. One of the things that’s been brought to my attention is that when he was a starter in the Baltimore organization, he did not have success. He really didn’t have the durability to go deep into games, and that’s why a lot of people thought he’d do a much better job in relief.
I thought that Pedro bought it. He loves the bullpen, loves pitching in relief. At the end of May or so we had talked about it, and he said his ultimate goal was to be a closer. As we wind down spring training, one of the things that you know, when you develop a young pitcher, it’s about work, it’s about getting innings so you can work on your stuff, work on your command, work on all those things. As we get to the end of spring training, I think those decisions will be made on Pedro if he’s not going to make this club. But boy, I’ll tell you, if we can see the stuff we saw last April and May, it’s pretty hard to keep him off this team.
Brian Erni (MetsBlog): Obviously the buzz has been a lot about the middle of the order early in camp with Lucas Duda and Ike Davis looking good and Jason Bay and David Wright bouncing back, but as far as manufacturing some runs in front of those guys, do you envision yourself maybe hitting-and-running in front of those guys, and do you think Daniel Murphy might be a cog to that in the two hole?
Terry Collins: One of the things about hit-and-run, it’s the situation itself. When you hit-and-run, it makes more sense with David and Murph than with Murphy and Torres, if he’s hitting ahead of him. But one thing you have to be careful of is running yourself into a situation where you can pitch around somebody. If I decide to go Ike-Jason-Duda, you’re going to open up first base where they can pitch around Ike and get to Jason Bay right-on-right. There’s different things when you use the hit-and-run.
In my days with the Dodgers long ago, they sort of hated the hit-and-run. They said that if all you’re trying to do is get a guy to second base, you’ve got to bunt him over. When you’ve got a guy like Daniel Murphy, one of his assets is that he’s a good hitter. The hit-and-run is basically for guys who can handle the bat but aren’t really good hitters. Daniel Murphy’s got a chance to make it two-nothing if he gets a good ball to hit. I think we’ve got to very careful if we’re going to hit-and-run very much. It’s all going to depend on what the situation is going to be.
Michael Donato (Optimistic Mets Fan): I was wondering if there was anything overall across the team that you feel maybe got overlooked or passed over that you’re looking to emphasize this spring?
Terry Collins: There is, actually. We’ve talked about it this spring. The focus has been on the loss of players, and making sure our pitching’s good, we’ve got to bunt better. One of the things that we didn’t do very good last year is run the bases. Our first-to-third was not very good. We are not blessed with a lot of speed.
Those guys that are in the middle of that lineup sometimes, they’re aware of themselves. Jason Bay was probably the best at going first-to-third. One of the things I’ve already talked to Lucas Duda about, he’s got to understand is that, at the major league level, every outfielder is being taught to make sure you stay into a double play. So, therefore, on certain ground balls, if you hit a ground ball and that ball bounces two times and gets to the outfield, you should be able to get to third base. One of the focuses we have this spring is to make sure our baserunning improves.
Scoring runs with two outs on a two-out single – that’s something that has to be done. We’ve got to get better second reads. We’ve got to get our angles better so we can round third base at a better angle to make it easier to score so that’s going to be a major focus for us this spring.
Jason Fry (Faith and Fear in Flushing): When you have a veteran player who’s new to the club, what’s the process that you follow for getting to know that player and having that player get to know you and what you expect?
Terry Collins: One of the things that I preach right now, that communication we talk about, it’s a two-way street. I bring those veterans in, like I have already with Jon Rauch and Frank Francisco, brought them in, sat them down, and start the conversation. ‘You tell me about you, you tell me how you get ready, tell me about situations that you don’t like.’ And then try to blend in, ‘here’s what you like, and here’s what I like to do,’ and have that conversation to where when they leave that office, they’re on the same page so no matter what you do, they understand the whole thought process, ‘Well, gosh, he didn’t use me here, and I understand why because it’s been explained.’
And it’s also times where, ‘I told him I like to pitch in this situation,’ and I’m saying, ‘okay, I’ve got to bring this guy in. This in when he likes to pitch, this is when he’s most successful.’ So that communication early in camp kind of sets the tone, and last year it really worked with Francisco Rodriguez.
Chris McShane: Last week, it was reported that you would like the Mets to lead the league in sacrifice bunts this year. Was that your way of saying that you want the Mets to play fundamentally strong baseball and execute plays like a sac bunt when it's necessary, or is that more of a concrete goal even though sacrifice bunting makes it harder to score runs?
Terry Collins: Basically, that's been directed at the pitching - at our pitching staff and its sacrifice bunting. In the second half last year, we weren't very good. And by the way, if you look at the end of the season, we looked up and said, 'guys, we had x amount of sacrifice bunts,' they weren't bad, but it wasn't good enough. And that's been the whole theme. It's not that we didn't do it well, we didn't do it good enough.
If the league leader was 60, we needed to be at 75 because we had opportunities where we did not bunt good. It was amazing, we had the likes of Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee, both can handle the bat, and I can't tell you how many times we didn't move a runner along.
It's not that we're going to play small ball. It's not that we're going to ask some of our position players to move our runners along. We want our pitching staff, when we call upon them to move a runner along, that that out is productive, and that is moving somebody up.
One of the things we're going to do this spring with our pitching staff is, you know, last spring we DH'd pretty much the entire spring, until maybe the last week. We're only going to DH the first ten days of the exhibition season because our pitchers have got to be comfortable when they get in that batter's box.
Mike Silva (New York Baseball Digest): First, in retrospect, do you regret at all going public with your displeasure on [Ruben Tejada] reporting on time since the media might have made a bigger deal of it, maybe you could’ve maybe done it privately with him and no one outside knowing? And second, I know this is a small sample, Tejada’s shown he can lead off maybe, has a penchant for taking pitches, working counts, getting on base, is that an option? I know Andres Torres is a guy you said is a leadoff guy, but could Tejada at some point get a look at the top of the order?
Terry Collins: Well, one of the things when you come down to spring training, when the sportswriters get into spring training, when they see everyone but your star guy, or one of your guys who’s replacing an all-star, it’s quite noticeable. When they ask you, ‘why isn’t he here?’ I have no answers. I wasn’t mad at him, I was disappointed he wasn’t here. When the biggest baseball star in New York is the first guy to report on the other team’s spring training, I want to know why my guy’s not there. One of the things that this kid has to understand is there’s a process involved. There’s a way, when expectations are high in our city, he needs to understand what it takes. Behind the scenes sometimes, if it’s not out front, if the players don’t think it’s important, he’s not going to think it’s important. If the writers bring it up to me, they need to know I think it’s important. And that’s why I answered the questions.
As far as leading off, the one thing this kid is facing right now is replacing Jose Reyes. That’s a huge thing to put on the shoulders of a 21-year-old baseball player. He’s got enough on his mind to replace Jose defensively, let alone to say, ‘you’ve got to get on, you’ve got to get into scoring position because you’re replacing Jose Reyes.’ That’s an awful lot to ask of that young man.
Matthew Artus: I just wanted to ask you about the new outfield wall. I was curious about how much you were involved in the decision to bring the walls in, if you were consulted, as well as how you’re preparing to take advantage of the new walls in this season and beyond?
Terry Collins: Well, first of all, that was completely Sandy and Jeff. The reconstruction of the facility was Sandy and Jeff. I don’t get involved in things I don’t have any control over and I certainly don’t have any say in. As far as what we’re going to do, I hope we’re going to hit the ball over that fence, that’s what we’re going to do. One of the things I’ve talked about is that this game is about confidence, it’s all about confidence. And already we’ve seen, our first day we hit on the reconstructed Citi Field down here in Florida, you would be shocked at the numbers of balls laying between the old fence and where the new fences lies. I made the players go back there and pick the balls up, and holy gosh, what a difference it’s going to make.
It’s not going to only make a difference offensively, it’s going to make a difference defensively. Right field at Citi Field was the toughest right field to play in the National League. When you’ve got a young player like Lucas Duda, who is basically an infielder, a first baseman, making a move to the outfield to replace one of the best outfielders in the game in Carlos Beltran in the most difficult position in Citi Field, that’s a lot to ask. Now, the dynamics have changed out there. Now that the Mo’s Zone isn’t going to be a factor, when can put Lucas in a spot where he can react better to certain balls. I think in both ways, it’s going to be an advantage for us.
Kerel Cooper (On the Black): I was wondering if you could give us on what you’ve seen so far with Matt Harvey this spring, and do you expect to see him with the big club at some point this year, keeping in mind that you don’t want to rush a young pitcher?
Terry Collins: Well, what we’re seeing so far is everything you’ve heard and read about, and that is an absolute first-rate arm. I saw, he threw today; I’m going to tell you a nice, smooth delivery, ball really comes out of his hand good, plus breaking ball, but the one thing I saw was command to both sides of the plate. But he was unhappy with his batting practice today because he thought he was up in the zone, but I saw life on his fastball, not only his four-seam but his two-seam was very, very good. He’s got to get command. One of the things that he and I talked about today when he was done was, ‘it’s great, you really threw the ball good, now take that into the game and be more down in the zone. Know when you can four-seam somebody up in the zone if you can use your two-seam to get ahead.’
But, I’ll tell you what, am I going to see him? To be honest, I hope not, because that means our five starters that we’re running out there out of spring training are healthy and we run them out there every five days. But if that doesn’t work, and something happens, I know I’ve got a quality arm that’s willing and waiting to come up.
Howard Megdal (Lo Hud Mets Blog): I’m curious, I know over the last two months of last season, you were increasingly frustrated not just with execution, but with effort, as well. And I’m wondering, having had the winter to think things over, you talked about the limits of what a manager can do, are there specific things that you decided you wanted to do differently as a result of the way things ended last year? And I was hoping you’d share what those specifics are.
Terry Collins: I guess you’d have to tell me where I was unhappy about the effort. I was unhappy on the execution side of it, but I’m not sure the effort was an issue because I don’t think there was a time that I ever said that somebody didn’t play. I mean, when you’ve got some guys I ran out there who played as hard as they can play, one of the things I saw last year was some of our young players for the first time going through a major league season, I saw fatigue. We’ve already discussed it several times this spring with two or three guys about how important it is to get their rest, how important it is, during the game on the day’s you’re not playing, you don’t have to go hit in the indoor batting cage and take 500 swings. You’ve got to save yourself for the game. That, ultimately, is the most important thing.
It goes back to, I told one of the players this spring, that he reminded me of one of the Japanese players, when I was in Japan, who was very happy practicing, but when game time came, he was so worn out, he couldn’t play the game. We’ve got to understand the importance and how hard it is to get through a major league season.
We’ve already focused on that with Dillon Gee. Dillon told me that at the end of last year, he was basically out of gas in the month of September. So we’ve talked about, look, when July and August come – the so-called dog days of the year – cut your bullpens back, save it. There’s no reason why you should throw a forty-five-, fifty-pitch bullpen three quarters of the way through the year. There’s a learning process, and one of the things I thought I had to learn last year was, ‘what’s going on today in the major league level?’
The last time I managed, I had one of the best pitchers in the American League in Chuck Finley, and from July on, he didn’t throw bullpens. Those are all things that we’ve got to understand, and we’ve got to learn that it’s what you do – as we saw with the Cardinals – it’s what you do late in the season, those teams that can go out there late August and all of the month of September and still go out there and get things done.