Winter Meetings interview with Terry Collins

Q. I guess the first question is how many compliments have you gotten on your wardrobe today?

TERRY COLLINS: A lot, a lot. I tried to get ahold of everybody here, and make sure they all have the same shirt you and I have on, Steve. But they must have had their suitcases packed early, I guess.

Q. How different does this Winter Meetings feel going in in terms of relative lack of holes you guys need to fill?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, it's a lot different. We came in when the season was over, and we certainly targeted some areas we had to get better at.

Obviously, with the signing of Michael Cuddyer, that filled a huge hole for us; and with Matt coming back, that gives us some very, very good pitching depth. You get a number one pitcher, and they're hard to find. We've got a healthy David Wright. I just saw him. I just saw Bobby Parnell throw the other day. He's healthy. So our bullpen has been set where in the past we've had to reshape our bullpen and try to find some help. Now, I think we've got a couple more things we want to do, but it's not like it has been in the past.

Q. David had said in December was when he was going to start hitting. Do you know if he's actually started that yet?

TERRY COLLINS: He has not. He has not. He's strictly been doing the shoulder rehab and getting in the weight room and getting some strength back in his shoulder area. He looks great, looks terrific.

Q. Will it be soon for the hitting or you're not sure?

TERRY COLLINS: I know they're going out to see Kevin in December sometime. I don't have any dates for you.

Q. David's going to see Kevin in Phoenix?

TERRY COLLINS: Uh‑huh.

Q. Sandy has indicated that they're looking for a shortstop whether by trade, free agent market, but if it doesn't happen, Flores is the guy?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, as I sit here today, I'm not going to name which Wilmer Flores just yet.

My conversations with Ruben Tejada, who played very well the last couple weeks of the season, especially defensively, was outstanding. The guy hit five homers for us. But Ruben promised me he'd be at the fitness facility in January to get ready for Spring Training, which I think will be a huge benefit for him to do that, so I'm looking forward to it. Since I live there, I'll be the first guy out there that morning waiting for him to walk through those doors. If he walks through those doors, his name's going to be right there with Wilmer's and the job is up for grabs.

Q. If you had to go internally with what you have?

TERRY COLLINS: I'm very satisfied with it.

Q. I know Lucas mentioned on a conference call that he's been to (Indiscernible)?

TERRY COLLINS: Bobby's been there, Jon Niese has been there, Lagares has been there, Wilmer's been there twice. Those would be the main guys at the Major League level.

There are a lot of Minor League guys. I talked to the people down there last week, and they indicated to me when it opens up in January, they're expecting over 40 players.

Q. What makes you think Tejada can rebound to get into that mix?

TERRY COLLINS: Mike's 25. It would be one thing if he was 31 or 32 and maybe on the downside of his career, but he's right in primetime. What we saw at the end is the Ruben Tejada we know he can be: tremendous defender, great arm. He hit for more power than we expected, but I think he's doing that by design. If you'll notice, a lot of times early in the count or early at‑bat, he might take a bigger swing than normal.

But as I told him at the end of the year, how mad do you have to be at yourself before you have to go prove to everybody else that, hey, look, you're still the guy?

By no means until I get to Spring Training, unless you decide you're not going to put the work in to be as good as you can be, you know, you're going to be in the mix.

Q. As far as Flores goes, you saw enough last year to think he could do it potentially?

TERRY COLLINS: His bat potential, a lot of people have talked to me about what you're looking for in a shortstop. In our game today with the lack of offense that's been a daily conversation, and you've got a guy who can be an offensive shortstop, which Wilmer Flores made all the routine plays. He's got a good arm. He can turn a double play.

Now we've said all along, is he going to be that rangy guy that goes from hole to hole?

No. But if we do our job and we pitch the way we're supposed to pitch and get him in the right position, he'll catch the baseball and throw people out.

Q. Terry, Sandy and Matt talked about (Indiscernible). How much have you discussed that?

TERRY COLLINS: Matt and I talked about it last year before the season was over. We haven't put a number on it yet. But there is going to be a time this summer when we have to either skip him, set him down for ten days, maybe miss two, so that we know that he's going to stay healthy throughout. There is a lot. We've got some other young pitchers the same way.

Hopefully we don't have any injuries, but you've always got to contemplate the fact that there may be, and anticipate some injuries. I look at Noah Syndergaard as the same thing. This guy's pitched, what, 150 innings once maybe? So we're certainly going to have to make sure if he's in the mix or coming up that we have an idea of what his load should be. But all of that will be decided in Spring Training.

Q. Is the roster that you have today pretty similar to the one you'll ultimately have two months from now? How confident are you that that is a playoff team?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, to me, you go back and again, I know when you looked at all the playoff games there were a few games that there was a lot of offense, but teams won because they pitched, and we've got some pitching. We've got starting depth. We've got back end of our bullpen has four guys that could be closers on any team. We've got certainly we're looking for another left‑handed reliever which would help us a lot. But we've got some pitching.

And you know what, we've got an All‑Star at third base who had a bad year. I don't know that he's ever had a bad year, so we certainly think he'll bounce back. So you put a big bat in the middle of your lineup along with Michael Cuddyer, and Lucas Duda getting his opportunity, and we know what Murph's going to do. Obviously, we have a good idea of what Curtis is going to do. So we have a lot of pieces.

The idea is to make sure your bench is strong enough to give those guys time off so you stay healthy and stay fresh. But there is no reason why we shouldn't be able to compete.

Q. How important would it be for you to have Bartolo back with all of these arms in the bullpen? Sandy said I'm not actively shopping him around, but how much do you want Bartolo back?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, Bartolo is one of those guys that leads by a great example. He very quietly talks to those young relief pitchers we have down there, and he's somebody that they can talk to and get an idea of how to pitch. But the one thing about Bartolo, and I don't care, I know he's going to be 41 years old. But when you look up 15 wins in 210 innings or whatever he ended up with, those guys are hard to find. I just think he gives us that guy that we run out there every five days that you can depend on.

Q. Is the likelihood Cuddyer in right and Granderson in left?

TERRY COLLINS: That's probably what we're going to talk about in Spring Training when we get down there. I talked to Michael briefly on the phone and said when we get to Spring Training, we'll sit down and start to settle out the position mix. But I've talked to Curtis about it last year, and he could care less what position he plays.

Q. I guess, like last year, if the roster goes back similar to this, you don't have a prototypical leadoff hitter? Is Lagares the most likely candidate?

 

TERRY COLLINS: He's the guy, I'm going to tell you what, we're going in to Spring Training with Juan and Curtis both in the mix. But we're going to really push. I've talked to Kevin. Pat Roessler, Tommy Goodwin.

 

And certainly we've got to try to get Juan Lagares to be the kind of guy that can be that leadoff guy for us and get on base and create some runs. We know he can steal bases. He showed us that last year. We know he's got some power. He can be dangerous in the leadoff spot. We've just got to again work on his discipline at the plate to be as effective as he can be. But he's the guy we're leaning towards at the moment.

Q. In saying Ruben's up for the shortstop job. What makes you think that he's not the type of hitter he was the last two years?

TERRY COLLINS: I think the easiest way to answer that is to sit him down and put some black and white information in front of him. Say, here's what we know you can do, and here's what you've done. What do you want to be?

Once in a while, again, everybody thinks you can talk to a player and they automatically are going to do what you ask them to do. That doesn't work. There is not a person in society that hasn't gone down their own path. We've got to get Ruben to understand hey, look, this was really good enough. That .380 on base, that .275 batting average, and play steady at shortstop as you can be.

As I said, I've got an outstanding coaching staff, and three years ago there was talk this guy's going to be an All‑Star, so we think it's still in there.

Q. With all that being said, did you get any indication this year that he felt differently leaving this season than say last season where similar anger could have been there?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, good question. Again, I wish I could tell you. I don't have answers for those. What his thought process is, I don't have it. As I told him, if I myself were in your shoes, here's what I'd do. You're not me, but here's what I'd do. And we'll just see how he responds. But I certainly think he has all of the ‑‑ he's still a guy who should be able to be the shortstop here. That makes us a whole lot better because that allows us to put Wilmer in some spots and give David some days off. We've got a quality guy that can play around the infield with an outstanding bat, so we'd be better.

Q. Lucas, you want him to show that he can hit lefties. So how do you plan like you're early season? Give him some opportunities, and give Cuddyer opportunities and see if things take off or not?

TERRY COLLINS: It all depends what our bench is looking like. If we're going to put Michael at first base, who is going to play in the outfield.

We don't have those answers just yet. But the one thing, Lucas and I have already talked about it, and I've seen him hit lefties. I know when you see a game in Spring Training, if there is a left‑handed pitcher on the mound, Lucas is going to be in the game. I think the more he sees him, the better off he's going to get.

Q. By saying you expect the team to be contenders, your raised bar, obviously, but you're also basically expecting a lot from yourself, right? Wouldn't you say?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah.

Q. Putting yourself on the hot seat in a way?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, yeah, it's time. I've done nothing for the last four years but preach to our fan base to be patient, and I've been trying to be patient. Well, I think we've got the pieces. It's time to step up. So what. So you put yourself in the hot seat. At my age there is a lot of numbness down there anyways. So, you just don't have to worry about it too bad, but it's time to respond. You hear them talk. You hear the players talk.

You know, we feel we've put in three, in my opinion, two major pieces with Bobby, Matt, David coming back off a rough year. I just think there are a lot of positives and we've shown that we can compete. We can sit here right now and break down seven wins we should have had last year which would have all of a sudden made this a whole different season. So I think we're that close.

Q. You have six veteran starting pitchers right now. Do you anticipate having six when camp opens or do you think you'll be down to five?

TERRY COLLINS: I don't know. To be honest, I only go with what I've got. So I'm planning on going to camp with six right now and have to decide what the fix is. I also know we've got three or four young guys coming up behind them that will really give us a lot of depth. So we'll leave Spring Training, we think, with eight or nine quality starters. So if we run into problems, we aren't going to miss a beat if somebody goes down.

Q. Would Montero be a consideration for the bullpen?

TERRY COLLINS: He would be, yeah.

Q. How are you planning on handling the 9th inning in Spring Training going into this regular season with Bobby?

TERRY COLLINS: Bobby's not going to be ready until mid‑spring to really get on the mound and get into games. So I think the majority of the work is going to be Jenrry Mejia, and I'm going to run Vic Black out there. I think Vic's got that kind of arm and see how he handles it.

Q. Do you want to see those three guys in a competition or is it still Jenrry's job?

TERRY COLLINS: I love competition, that's why I do this. I've always said the guy that goes out and wins the job is the guy you can depend on when it comes to crunch time because they've had to compete. So we'll just see who responds. Obviously, we know what they can do. We've seen them in game action. But let's just see what happens when something's up for grabs.

How does Bobby look? What can you expect from him? He looks tremendous. He looks absolutely tremendous. I saw him throw. He's out at 125 feet, absolutely great, fluid delivery, good velocity, feels great. Wait until you see him. You can tell he's been out working out. He's big and strong and we're anxious to get him back on the mound, because I think he's going to be a huge piece before the season's over.

Q. With Wilmer, what is it going into camp that you're going to be looking for him to take that next step? What's that mean for him?

TERRY COLLINS: I think we need to see the consistency offensively. If Wilmer's going to be the guy, the on‑base has got to go up. I'm not asking him to hit home runs. But I think Wilmer Flores because of his bat potential and what we saw at different streaks during the year, he should be a very, very good offensive player and put up some good offensive numbers. So we're going to look to make sure the bat's going to play.

Q. Aside from Montero, any of the other young pitchers, I think you mentioned a year ago, Mazzoni.

TERRY COLLINS: Coming off those injuries, I don't know where he's at with Corey, so I'll wait until we get down there and get medical people involved.

Q. Montero among the young guys, the best candidate?

TERRY COLLINS: Right now he's our best candidate, yeah.

Q. And if Lagares is out there, are you satisfied with the way it flows, lefty‑righty? You've got Wright, you have Duda and Cuddyer, Granderson kind of thing?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, we're looking at that mix, yeah.

Q. And Parnell should probably get on the mound right after Christmas, he said?

TERRY COLLINS: That's what he said one time. And I know he and Jon Debus are certainly leaning towards the end of January to get on the mound.

I told Bobby the other day not to rush it. There is going to be a timeframe. We've got plenty of time to get him ready. You're talking about a guy that's only going to pitch one inning a night anyway. The idea is to get him ready to go back‑to‑back games. That's where the depth in the back of that bullpen is going to help out. If Bobby ends up being the closer, he's going to need some nights off, and we have guys we can stick back there to do the job.

Q. (Indiscernible) even if it's just a few weeks. Does that sound most likely?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, the way ‑‑ the medical things. But right now we'll just wait and see.

Q. And Matt, when we talked to him, it was last week, he said he's going to come into Spring Training ready to face batters from that first day he's down there, and he's going to spend all of January in Newport. Is that realistic to have him facing batters that early?

TERRY COLLINS: We know what Matt says. There is a process involved, and the process is going to be to ‑‑ he's going to spend the first five days doing the sides. He's going to throw a little BP. We'll set it up to see how he looks and how he feels and decide when he's going to pitch in an exhibition game. But we know ‑‑ I know Matt Harvey. Matt Harvey was ready to face a hitter last August.

So, again, I'm not on Twitter too much. So I'm really glad because I'd be run out of the Matt Harvey quotes. But one of the things, that's why I think he's special, I think he challenges himself to be the best he can be. And I think that's why he's good.

Q. I know he's saying all the right things and he's bought into the plan. He wants to (Indiscernible)?

TERRY COLLINS: There will be an argument.

Q. The first time you tell him he's going to skip a start?

TERRY COLLINS: Oh, there will be a fight. There will be a fight.

Q. As far as Japanese players, any plan on bringing a shortstop or people like Torre Tawny?

TERRY COLLINS: I know Torre Tawny's name is on a group of shortstops. I'm very lucky I've seen all those great Japanese shortstops and I'm somewhat surprised there are not more here because they're very, very good. I don't know which direction Sandy is leaning towards. It all comes down to the agents and where is the best fit. There are 30 teams. But if one of them comes my way, I'd be happy to have them because I know how good they are.

Q. Did you say you were satisfied with the infield earlier?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, this is what we have today. I never concern myself with who we don't have here. So all I know is I've got this group of players and if we had to start tomorrow, I'm not afraid to go out with those guys. If we have somebody that can make us better, then we're going to be better.

Q. Just to clarify with the closer, you said you have four that are capable, Vic, Jeurys, Jenrry and Bobby, and your plan is to have those guys complete for the closing job?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, again, I think Bobby's going to be a step behind due to the injury.

But the other guys, I'm going to go down there and make sure the one thing that obviously Henry is going to come out because he's done it, and he's had success doing it. But, again, you've always got to be prepared for something you're not expecting to happen in Spring Training, so you have to have other options.

Q. Is that an open job to you?

TERRY COLLINS: No.

Q. So it's Jenrry's to lose?

TERRY COLLINS: It's Bobby's to lose.

Q. Bobby's.

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, right now. I think Bobby's going to be the guy. We know we have a comparable back‑up. I know one thing about Jenrry Mejia, he and I talk about it all the time. He said you call down and tell me to pitch, I pitch. That's why I think he's going to be a huge part because as we've talked for the years, there are a lot of times you're going to need that quality arm in the 7th inning, not just the 9th inning, and we've got those guys that pitch that 7th inning now.

Q. Because he had that issue with warming up and making that transition, I remember it was pretty important to make that set roll. Is there any concern lingering about him being able to get hot, get ready and stay healthy if he's not as clearly delineated as far as role?

TERRY COLLINS: That's a legitimate question because all those guys want to know exactly when they're pitching, the game speed and what goes on. One of the things that really helps us is Vick Black can get ready in about five pitches. So if you're sailing through the game, and in the 7th inning you need somebody up right now, the ideal guy would be Vick Black. That's how we've used him the last couple of years. He can step up and get ready and get into a game fast.

Now you can let Jenrry or Familia or whatever their role is to pitch the next inning.

Q. Do you think that Mejia has completely embraced his role?

 

TERRY COLLINS: Oh, no doubt. He loves it. He loves it.

 

Q. There was a lot of struggle in the beginning and a lot of mental?

TERRY COLLINS: But he got through because it was all about health. He didn't know if his arm could hold up. He showed that he could. He showed he could pitch back‑to‑back days. He could pitch three days in a row, and I think all those things are going to make him better. Jenrry Mejia is such a workhorse. He works so hard to get ready. To know that he can do it health‑wise I think has helped a lot.

Q. Good guys?

TERRY COLLINS: They're good guys, thank you. They're really good guys. Really good.