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Ruben Tejada takes no chances, arrives early this year

Shortstop Ruben Tejada arrives at Tradition Field for

Shortstop Ruben Tejada arrives at Tradition Field for spring training. (Feb. 11, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Ruben Tejada saw the news reports. He heard the predictions of a massive snowstorm headed toward New York that might halt air travel. Determined to arrive at spring training early this year, he took no chances, moving his flight from Saturday afternoon to 5 a.m. Friday.

That quick thinking allowed Tejada to join the rest of the Mets' projected starting infield Monday for early workouts.

"You have to do that. It's my work, you know?" Tejada said. "You have to stay doing it the right way. That's why I came here early to work with my teammates."

A year ago, manager Terry Collins expressed his displeasure when Tejada reported to camp on time, as opposed to a few days early. This year, as Tejada wrapped up his first workday at the team's complex, Collins said he was pleased.

Pitchers and catchers were required to report Monday but position players don't have to be at camp until Saturday. Yet Tejada reported early, along with the other starting infielders.

Tejada, 23, spent part of last month working out with former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. At Reyes' suggestion, Tejada wants to spend part of camp becoming more of a base-stealing threat. He intends to focus on reading pitchers and anticipating base-stealing situations.

"This is all part of the process," Tejada said. "Every little thing can make a big difference."

Tejada hit .289 in 114 games last season, establishing himself as Reyes' successor at shortstop. But base-stealing hasn't been his forte. He swiped only four bags in eight attempts last year. In 288 games, he's 11-for-18. As a professional, he posted a career-high 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts in 2009 with Double-A Binghamton.

Nevertheless, he plans to do more running, though he stopped short of establishing the number of stolen bases he wants by season's end.

"I don't know," Tejada said. "But I'll try to give myself more chances."

Byrdak eyes July return

Mets lefthanded reliever Tim Byrdak hopes to be major league-ready by July 1.

"Any time in June would be icing on the cake," said Byrdak, 39, who is attempting to come back from shoulder surgery last September. "The thought process always was let's get it fixed and let's see where it goes from here."

Byrdak posted a 4.40 ERA in 56 appearances before injuring his left shoulder. He signed a minor-league deal with the Mets, who are willing to give the veteran a chance at a comeback.

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