PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Though Mets officials remain committed to Wilmer Flores as their starting shortstop, manager Terry Collins has gone out of his way this spring to promote Ruben Tejada's candidacy for the job. At the least, Collins knows, Tejada will be a backup middle infielder for the Mets. So the manager hopes to see some newfound fire out of Tejada, who is still just 25 years old.
"I am not in Ruben Tejada's head," Collins said. "I hope I'm in his head, but I'm not. But at the end of the year, I didn't tell Ruben Tejada what he needed to do. I asked him what he thought he needed to do, because that's where it has to start. I'm going to give him an opportunity to show it's still there. Now it's in his corner."
After hitting .287 with a .690 OPS over his first two full big league seasons, Tejada regressed to a .224 average and a .604 OPS in 2013 and '14. He spent the past two winters working out with Mike Barwis -- a personal trainer who recently opened up a workout facility at Tradition Field -- but none of it has prevented Tejada from losing his grip on the starting job.
That role will instead go to Flores, who should see the lion's share of playing time at shortstop this spring. Still, Collins wants to see Tejada, as well as prospect Matt Reynolds, extensively at the position during Grapefruit League play.
"I brought him in here and told him this job is up for grabs," Collins said of Tejada. "I'm not going to put him at second base after I've just told him to go find out who the best shortstop is. Then all of the sudden if he doesn't play shortstop very much, I'm not sure that would go over very good."
In essence, Collins wants Tejada to treat this spring like an open competition, even if the job rests securely in Flores' hands.
"No matter what, I have to keep working," Tejada said. "It's a new year and a new opportunity to stay here. I've come here to work."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.