PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Perhaps it isn't spring training for everyone after all.
After an ugly 13-2 Grapefruit League loss to the Marlins on Monday, Mets owner Fred Wilpon spent about 25 minutes meeting with Terry Collins, quizzing him about what the lame-duck manager later called "a couple of spots that have been a concern."
In particular, the concerns centered on the youngsters responsible for allowing a spate of walks in recent days and the lack of clear-cut lefthanded options out of the bullpen.
"He's got great passion," Collins said of the long chat with the owner, which came only minutes after the final out. "He wants to win so bad."
Collins insisted that Wilpon wasn't angry. Indeed, his office door remained cracked open for a talk that hardly seemed Steinbrenneresque. But the timing of the owner's chat with a manager in the final year of his contract added some heft to what otherwise would have been a meaningless spring training defeat.
It also came at a time when Wilpon has been more of a presence in camp than in previous years. Collins said that's not a coincidence, given the heightened expectations around the Mets, who aspire to make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
"He expects it to be a much better team, there's no doubt about that," Collins said. "He's around. He told me two weeks ago, he said, 'Look, I'm going to be here a lot -- a lot.' Where in the past, he'd come in and then he'd be gone for a week or 10 days. And then he'd come in and say, 'Hey, let's talk about the club.' "
Collins said Wilpon sat in his office for a similar talk just a few days earlier. But Monday's meeting was conspicuous because it delayed the manager's postgame media availability. Wilpon wasn't aware that Collins had yet to address reporters, Collins said later.
Wilpon himself has not addressed the media in two years, a period during which he has been roundly criticized for a payroll that has been locked in the $100-million range. That figure ranks the Mets in the bottom third of baseball.
Wilpon, 78, has been a frequent presence during this camp, though, whether it be watching bullpen sessions alongside coaches or batting practice from a golf cart parked near the cage.
The Mets have played only seven exhibition games, going 3-4, and four weeks remain before the wins and losses count. On Monday, though, things were brutal from the start. Zack Wheeler gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings, a performance that included two walks and two hit batters.
Wheeler and Collins shrugged off the result, chalking it up to the righthander simply tuning up for the season in his first exhibition start. Nevertheless, in his office after the game, Collins said he spent some of his time reassuring Wilpon.
"I said, 'Listen, you're going to like what's going to come out of here,' " Collins said.
Next, he said he "mapped out" playing schedules for the next four days before turning his attention toward "trying to find certain spots where we're trying to get better."
"He asked me about a couple of spots that have been a concern. I said, 'Yeah, they're still a concern,' " Collins said. "So we're going to bear down on those areas."
Mets pitchers have issued 36 walks in 61 innings. Collins also sounded concerned about the lack of velocity on Josh Edgin's fastball, a virtual replay of a year ago, when he was among the first cuts in camp. Edgin, the Mets' primary lefthanded bullpen option, was clocked from 87 to 90 mph, according to a scout in attendance. Last season, his fastball averaged 92.5 mph.
"Right now, that could be a concern his velocity is not there," Collins said. "That's something we got to work on."
Of course, those weren't the only concerns discussed with Wilpon.
"There's a couple of others," said Collins, who refused to go into further detail.
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