PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If it were up to Terry Collins, spring training would begin a day or two after the World Series, with optional hitting on Thanksgiving and Christmas. So it was hardly surprising Wednesday that Collins began grumbling publicly about the absence of Ruben Tejada, who along with Jason Bay are the only two starters yet to take the field for the Mets.
Mind you, the official reporting date for position players is not until Saturday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Monday. But Collins is eager to get started with his young team, and many of them have been working out at the spring-training complex for the past two weeks.
Plus, Tejada is only 22, the heir to Jose Reyes, and about to begin his first season as the starter at shortstop. He also will be adjusting to a new double-play partner in Daniel Murphy, who is still a work in progress at second. Even if Tejada isn't technically late, Collins expected him in camp by now, given the circumstances.
"I am a little surprised," Collins said. "As we talked about last year a lot of times, a lot of it is just selfishness on my part. I take great pride in the game itself and respecting the game itself. I wish everybody had the same respect for it to want to get started as early as possible. I know Ruben will come in in great shape. I know he'll be ready to go, I just wish he was here."
Collins aired the same complaint last year at this time about Luis Castillo, who was later released before Opening Day. Obviously it's a different situation with Tejada, who supposedly had planned to arrive days ago but couldn't pick up his visa with the embassy in Panama closed for a week because of the holidays that ended with Wednesday's Ash Wednesday.
The Mets, as they do with many of their foreign players, applied for Tejada's visa in November, and he had no problem getting approved. It was just a matter of picking it up, which he couldn't do until the embassy opens again Thursday.
Murphy, who still is trying to get comfortable at second base, talked Wednesday about the discussions he needs to have with Tejada about pivot throws and other positioning on double plays. "I don't really think it's going to take very long," Murphy said. "I'm learning the position, he's not."
With the rest of the infield already in camp, Collins would have liked to have that group working together already. "Of course you'd like him to be here," David Wright said of Tejada, "but spring training is long enough. They have reporting dates for a reason."
When Tejada shows up, and he's expected Saturday, the manager probably will have a conversation with him.
"It's never too soon," Collins said. "It's never too soon to start working on your trade, especially with a new second baseman. So there obviously will be a lot of work to do when he gets in."
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