Mets manager Terry Collins has no trouble recalling the first time he saw Jordany Valdespin.
"I told Omar Minaya he was going to be the minor league player of the year," Collins said Tuesday, recalling a conversation he had with the former Mets general manger. "I told him that was guaranteed because I wasn't going to let him get off the path. Unfortunately, I wasn't there every day and he got off the path."
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Collins, who had his notable conflicts with Valdespin over the years, seemed genuinely saddened Tuesday, 24 hours after hearing the news that the Mets' minor-league utilityman was among the players suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball as part of the Biogenesis probe.
Valdespin, 25, had made the Opening Day roster as part of a platoon in the outfield. On Tuesday, Collins described him as a player who had great talent but lacked the maturity level to get the most out of it.
In his short tenure with the Mets before being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas before the All-Star break, Valdespin refused to run out ground balls, ticked off opponents with his showboating at the plate and even threw a profane clubhouse tantrum.
This could be the final straw for Valdespin as general manger Sandy Alderson was noncommittal when asked about his future with the Mets.
"I don't think we've even thought about that issue at this point," Alderson said. " . . . At some point between now and the end of the suspension, we'll have those conversations."
Valdespin was not the only Met suspended as part of the probe. Minor-league outfielder Cesar Puello also was suspended for 50 games and, like Valdespin, elected not to appeal the ban under baseball's joint drug agreement.
Puello's name previously was linked to the Biogenesis investigation. Valdespin's was not. Yet Valdespin's personality had been so challenging in the short time that he was up with the Mets this season that the team seemed more taken off guard than surprised by the news. "I definitely wasn't looking for his name," said Daniel Murphy, the Mets player rep. "It came up. It was unfortunate. We all make mistakes. I've made mistakes in my life. Going forward for him, I think this is a learning opportunity."
Collins also painted a picture of a player who needs to turn something bad into something good.
"Certainly, we're all saddened by the fact that Jordany and Cesar made a mistake," Collins said. "In Jordany's case, he has the skills and a lot of them are off the charts. He has power you wouldn't think a guy his size has. He can run, he has a good arm. He's just got to slow the game down. He gets caught up. He's an emotional guy and I think a lot times with the emotions, it comes down to maturity. Guys mature at different ages.
"He has the skills. I hope he realizes that mistakes have been made. It's time to just be a baseball player and not try to be a superstar."
Mets outfielder Marlon Byrd, who was suspended 50 games last season after testing positive for Tamoxifen, said the suspension will not be an easy thing to deal with. Byrd maintains that he took Tamoxifen to treat an undisclosed medical condition without realizing that it was a banned substance. Still, he continues to be taunted at nearly every ballpark he goes to.
"It's going to be tough when they come back," he said. "The hard part isn't all this. The hard part is walking to your car with your kids and having someone yell 'steroids' at you. But if you want to play this game, you just have to move past all that. It's not easy."