Collins says K-Rod's role won't change

Mets reliever Francisco Rodriguez gestures during workouts in

Mets reliever Francisco Rodriguez gestures during workouts in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2011) (Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Terry Collins revealed his extensive to-do list during a 25-minute news conference Wednesday that served as the unofficial opening of spring training for the Mets. The new manager's top priorities are deciding on a second baseman, filling out the starting rotation, and in Collins' words, "re-create" the bullpen.

In addition, one of the more delicate issues Collins will face is the usage of closer Francisco Rodriguez, who arrived Wednesday at Digital Domain Park. Rodriguez's contract includes a $17.5-million option for 2012 that automatically vests if he finishes 55 games, an easily attainable goal.

The Mets want no part of that expensive option. But avoiding it could take drastic measures, such as using Rodriguez in an eighth-inning role on occasion - something that K-Rod likely would object to. When asked about the sticky situation, Collins denied that it would factor into the way he manages the late innings.

"In the past, when I managed, I didn't want to know about incentives," Collins said. "I tried to win the game. And I'm going to do that this year. Just going to try to win baseball games.

"The more we win, he's going to be a big part of it. And if we keep winning, I'm sure he'll keep going out there. So I plan on using him how I'm supposed to use him."

Rodriguez didn't make an issue of the option, either. When asked if he was concerned about it interfering with his role as closer, K-Rod mostly shrugged it off.

"As far as that, it's something that I don't like to talk about," Rodriguez said. "I cannot control that. The only thing I can control is what's on the field, so I don't really worry about that."

While Collins views the second-base job as a competition, he would like to see Daniel Murphy improve enough to claim the spot, describing it as an "offensive position." The lefthanded-hitting Murphy has proved - albeit with a limited sample size - that he can produce at the plate in the majors. But he remains a work-in-progress at second base, with much less experience at the position than Luis Castillo, Brad Emaus or Justin Turner.

That doesn't seem to faze Collins, however, who repeatedly stressed Murphy's work ethic and his improvement over the past few months.

"He's going to demand playing time," Collins said. "I can see Dan coming over to me, even on the days he's off, wanting to go play in a minor-league game. So that he will get as much experience as he possibly can to show us he can play there."

Collins is planning to hold off on his pre-camp address to the players until Monday morning, the day of the first full-squad workout.

"I'm hoping to say the right things," Collins said. "I've been very, very lucky. I pretty much hit everybody individually about some ideas, some thoughts, and then I'm going to bring it all together in one big, hopefully not-too-extended speech. I've always believed that February 21st is probably the biggest day of the season for me."

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