PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Terry Collins had his much-anticipated sit-down with Luis Castillo early yesterday morning. In the course of that conversation, Collins said he talked about giving Castillo a clean slate, yet the infamous botched pop-up in the Bronx was among the topics discussed.
That happened two years ago.
If Castillo truly is still bothered by that June 12 night at Yankee Stadium, as Collins suggested, then maybe it's best that the two part ways before wasting any more of each other's time. The Mets' new manager has tried to get a read on each of his players as they've filed into the clubhouse at Digital Domain Park. But Castillo, who must fight to win his job back, seems to be the toughest one to figure out.
"We have a fresh start here today," Collins said he told Castillo. "You may never drop another one. Matter of fact, the next thing you might do is make the biggest play on the biggest stage in the biggest game and get us where we want to go. You can't keep reverting to the other stuff."
At least Collins appears willing to put in the effort after airing his frustration about Castillo's decision not to show up early for spring training. Upon yesterday's arrival, Castillo said the delay was due to a pending surgery for his brother, Julio Cesar, who will have the operation Monday.
"He didn't want anybody to know," Collins said. "He didn't want it to be an excuse, in my opinion."
If Castillo can't fend off his competition at second base, he will have only himself to blame - and Collins isn't about to hand him the job based on his resume.
Castillo is a three-time All-Star, with three Gold Gloves, and owns a World Series ring from the 2003 Marlins, when he was part of a disruptive 1-2 leadoff tandem with Juan Pierre.
But he's shown little resemblance to that player since signing his four-year, $25-million contract, which expires at the end of this season. Castillo moves like someone much older than 35, thanks to numerous leg issues, including foot problems that limited him to 86 games last season. Now that he says he is healthy, Castillo is happy to try again with the new people in charge.
"Yeah, you know how it was for me last year," Castillo said. "I'm going to start over. I feel like I'm going to start over and focus, play hard and do it the best I can. If something happens, it happens, but I feel good because we have a new manager and GM, so I try to forget everything that happened last year."
Collins, as well as general manager Sandy Alderson, might not be as enthusiastic about keeping Castillo with the Mets. The manager considers Castillo on equal footing with Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus and Justin Turner - a rather remarkable statement, considering Turner is the only one to have played second base in the majors, for a whopping nine games.
It comes down to what Castillo has left physically, and Collins will get an idea of that in the next six weeks. As for the mental baggage - and that cursed pop-up - Collins wants to stash that away with the rest of this team's bad memories.
"Let's move forward, let's stay positive," Collins said he told Castillo. "You're a talented guy, you're healthy, what can you do to make this team better, and let's go with that. That was pretty much the direction we went in the conversation. But until we see it, can he get by it?
"Only time will tell. But I'm not a psychiatrist, I'm not a psychologist. We try to be, but the one thing I am right now is positive, and I think he can help."