Winter Meetings interview with Terry Collins

Winter Meetings interview with Terry Collins

Q. What was the discussion like today?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, first of all, Mike, I didn't talk to him. I had text messages with him, because I'm into modern day technology, so I thought I should do it how the players do it. So I did text him and so we did communicate. That was fun.

Q. What was the crux of your message?

TERRY COLLINS: We want you.

Q. Are you concerned about Familia's state of mind after the World Series --

TERRY COLLINS: Absolutely not. He got through a lot of important games for us. You go back, outside of the home run Gordon hit, those were ground balls. A lot of them were ground balls we didn't catch or something happened. He pitched good. I'm not worried about Familia. He's going to be ready.

Q. What is it about Zobrist that you think (indiscernible)?

TERRY COLLINS: He's a good player. You want good players, and he's made himself an outstanding offensive player. Obviously even though I know he's looking for that one position, like to be kind of centered at one spot, brings that flexibility that's huge in the National League. The number one thing you can do in the National League is give him a night off and yet he can still have an impact in the game as the game moves on. He's a perfect fit for that, especially being a switch-hitter. You can pinch-hit him in certain situations on a night off where they have to decide what they want to do on the other side of the field. He brings a lot to the table.

Q. Can you envision him in the two hole?

TERRY COLLINS: I can.

Q. More walks than strikeouts this year, first time in his career. Is there a sense that he's actually getting better in some ways?

TERRY COLLINS: He's making himself into a good player. I saw him -- I lived in St. Pete for a long time. I saw this guy when he first came to the Devil Rays, and he's just gotten better and better and better. They got him because he was a versatile guy, played a lot of positions, and all of a sudden he started hitting and Joe couldn't take him out. Now he's made himself a legitimate Big League star, and you've got to applaud those kind of guys. Like I said before, there's opportunities and you have to grab those opportunities and run with them and he's done that.

Q. You saw what the Royals did, a team that makes a lot of contact; do you like that idea, bring some of that to your team if you can?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, sure. Again, our team was built, and we've talked about it, it's built on some power and therefore we are going to strikeout. But you get some guys that put the ball in play, that's going to make it that much better for guys hitting behind him because there are going to be guys on base in scoring position.

Q. Can you imagine him spotting David at third --

TERRY COLLINS: Not right now, no.

Q. Do you have any idea how much David is going to be able to play next year?

TERRY COLLINS: Not right now, I do not. Until we get down there, I have in the back of my mind a plan, but I haven't sat with David and talked about it. So until we see how he is in Spring Training, then we'll get together.

Q. Have you spoken to him at all in the last month or so?

TERRY COLLINS: No.

Q. Would you expect it to be different than this year?

TERRY COLLINS: Until we see how he shows up and how he handles Spring Training and how the back's handling the workload in Spring Training, we'll decide then.

Q. What's the concern, you have two short stops now, broken bones?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, I'm concerned about it. I'm concerned about it. Lower leg injuries, they are tough. But they both -- and I know that they know how to -- they have got to get ready. They have got, certainly, I would think Ruben has to get close to start doing some activities, and I know how hard he worked the last couple years in the off-season and I know when he's ready to move, he'll be in Florida and getting himself ready. But it's important that those guys come to camp in good shape.

Q. Assuming all those guys do come to spring healthy, and you have Reynolds, as well, is it Flores's job or will you let those guys compete?

TERRY COLLINS: I'm going to let them compete. I'm anxious, I told the coaches that next spring we have to give Matt Reynolds a legitimate chance to see what kind of player he can be.

Q. When you look at your offensive production, how much are you counting on the maturity of Conforto and (indiscernible) and their development and full seasons from both?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, it's important that after a couple of years that they start to mature. Again, I know Michael is a young player and only has half a season in the Big Leagues, but I think the sky is the limit for him. I think he's going to be an outstanding offensive player and I believe he's going to hit for power. Right now we are still in a position where we still have some legitimate backup guys to help us out but it's important that those guys step up. I think Travis Wood, I think if we keep him healthy, he's going to produce runs. We've got to make up for the loss of Cespedes and Murph. We just hope these young guys are ready to kick in, but, again, we'll ride that pitching, because it's good, and hopefully these guys, as they get a little older, we're looking at the center field spot. I had a long talk with Juan at the end of the season that he has to become the type of player that we think he can. Now is the time that this winter he has to get himself in great shape and show up and be the guy we saw a couple years ago and get better offensively.

Q. Did you protect Conforto against lefties because it was his first year?

TERRY COLLINS: Not really. We signed Michael Cuddyer because we thought he was a very good offensive player and his numbers against left-handed pitching was very good. We thought, look, hey, this is a good situation and we can platoon and keep them sharp. But we always intended down the road that Conforto was not going to be a platoon player. In Spring Training, he's going to get his fair share against left-handed pitching. We are going to make sure he faces them.

Q. It looks like eventually he's a natural number three hitter. Do you think that can happen sooner than later?

TERRY COLLINS: I don't know. Again, he'll dictate that.

Q. But you would think eventually.

TERRY COLLINS: I think that's where he'll hit eventually, yeah.

Q. Have you given any more thought to exposing Travis or Kevin to another position?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, I don't know where that's coming from. The only time you could take a guy like one of those two catchers is if they are absolutely crushing the ball and they show you they cannot catch and they are not good behind the plate. That's not happening. For them to all of a sudden move to a new position, they have to hit and they have to put up offensive numbers to make that switch. We certainly, going into Spring Training, have no intention of having them play anyplace but catcher.

Q. Big picture-wise, since you had the season you did, how different is this off-season with the perception of the Mets in the community compared to the last few years?

TERRY COLLINS: Obviously it's a lot different. I haven't spent much time in New York, so I can't tell you about the community in New York, except that the fan base is excited. You walk around here and there's people -- I can't tell you how many people said, I'm a Yankees fan but I'm excited that happened last year. We ignited and brought back some energy in our fan base, which we are very happy about. We think the response has been great. We think we are going to be good for a while and we have that good young pitching and we're excited and I think people are excited to come to the New York Mets. This is a team that you want to be on a winner, then you should be knocking on our door, because we've got the organization, the Minor Leagues, and that structure at the Major Leagues right now, be it pitching, be it clubhouse, the veteran presence, hey, we should win for a while. And people who really talk about winning, this is a good place to be.

Q. What are you looking for in your next addition to the coaching staff?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, it's hard to say right now. You know, we are going to interview some guys next week. We want to stay inside the organization. I think it's important and imperative that our Minor League coaches and managers understand that they are going to advance. So we are going to talk to a couple of Big League coaches and a couple of the Minor League guys and make some decisions. But we have got a quality organization, and those guys deserve an opportunity to be at the Major League level.

Q. What kind of loss is that with Geren and what he brought to the table and how you guys work together in the dugout?

TERRY COLLINS: Bob was a very good help for me. Bob, one of the things about him, was that he offered information, and I appreciated it. Didn't always go with what he had to say, but sometimes I did. He's well thought out. He's a bright guy, brought a nice counter to the bench. But we had running conversations throughout the game about what we think we should do, and I think sometimes it just helped to have another opinion. That's what he brought and that's what I'm going to look for in the next bench coach is a guy who doesn't just nod his head; has a difference of opinion.

Q. Was he pressing or --

TERRY COLLINS: A lot of times it works on the other side. The pitcher has to give him a chance or you have to rush and therefore you're throwing from your knees. One thing we have to do is quicken him up a little bit. He's got a good arm, good arm strength. A lot of times they just rely on let's get the ball in flight here. That's something we have to work on. It's a work-in-progress. As we've talked about many times, he came up and he was a good defense -- we thought he caught very, very well and then, hey, you've got to hit, and now he's starting to hit and now we've got to put it all together.

Q. What do you think right now is the state of your bullpen? Looking for outside reinforcements?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, or some of our Minor League guys have got to step up. But John is here with the guys upstairs and they are talking to a lot of different people about some bullpen help. Hopefully we can get a guy or two that's going to help out. We signed Jim Henderson the other day to a Minor League contract, a guy who was a closer at one time in Milwaukee a couple years ago, coming off an arm problem. Everybody says he's throwing great. If he is, that's a pretty good option to have. I know that there's some names out there that are still floating around that are good. We've got some pieces that we may re-sign to contracts. We'll find those guys to fill those holes.

Q. You know very well about Japanese players. Could you evaluate about Kenta Maeda?

TERRY COLLINS: Well, he's an outstanding pitcher. He's an outstanding pitcher. As we've seen, the players who have come from Japan, the pitchers have fared the best. Obviously Ichiro and Matsui are exceptions to the position players, but he can pitch. He can pitch in the United States, and he's going to be a very, very good pitcher in the United States. I don't know what kind of contract he's asking for, but certainly he'll do very well here.

Q. Did you guys design a board yet --

TERRY COLLINS: I will tell you, they have decided, I don't know what date it is. The only thing I've asked is to use as much time as we can so we can bring those young pitchers in and give them a little extra time before we have to expose them to games, just to make sure that their arms are in good shape. I had a great conversation with Jim Leyland about those young guys, because I know we've got to be careful with them, and Jim says, you also have to understand, if you don't get them ready, they leave with as many injuries as trying to take it easy with them. I think the extra days in Spring Training with those guys before they got to get involved in games will help.

Q. Have you reflected on just what a ride you had and how much fun it was? Have you had time to sit back and think about all that stuff?

TERRY COLLINS: Yeah, no question about it. I think the day following the World Series, I sat down and reflected on the season. What a tremendous job. I told our coaches the next day when we had our meeting, what a great job they did. And I'll stand by this: Yes, we made some moves that took us over the top, but the job those coaches and those players did, when times were tough, to keep us afloat and keep our head above water and not get buried, gave us that opportunity to go get that help. The job that some of those young guys did and some of those veteran guys and in late May and late June and we weren't scoring but yet we were winning some games because our pitching was good and we kept ourselves in some ballgames and won a lot of games late, late in the game, they kept us afloat and kept -- all of a sudden you got hot, got hot at the right time. The organization stepped up and went out and got us some help which pushed it over the top. But there was a time when this thing could have fell apart and it didn't, and I credit the coaching staff and the players to keep it going.

Q. Does it make you feel like you might want to manage for another ten years?

TERRY COLLINS: I wouldn't say ten. I'll hopefully get through the next two. I tell you, the one thing I learned, is when you've never done it, just like we talk about all season long about those young players that have never played in September; well, if you haven't played in October, it's something you'd better understand, it's hard.

Q. Pressure?

TERRY COLLINS: Just the pressure. Just the time. Those games, I saluted those players, that trip to Los Angeles from New York for one day and then back to New York and then got to get ready to play the Chicago Cubs the next day, that was grueling. And to be able to get through that at the end, when it's all done, you ride that adrenaline. But once that adrenaline wears off, you're stinking exhausted. It was a great experience and we learned a lot and I think we'll be better because of it.

Q. I guess there's not very many things unresolved this year, not a lot of questions.

TERRY COLLINS: Again, it's all about not just repeating what you did, but playing better. So can we get Noah Syn to guard better? Yeah. He's pretty good. You know, same with Matt. I think he knows he's healthy now and again, we'll bring him along at the right -- what we think will be at the right pace. Have to keep Steven Matz out there, how about running him out there 28 times. There's a place to grow, and we plan on growing. I told the coaches, go home and get rest. The winter is going to be short but we have to pick the energy level because there's targets on our back. We are not going to surprise anybody anymore.

Q. Will you have a normal Spring Training --

TERRY COLLINS: Now, again, Juan has told me he'll be here in January, and I've told those guys in that workout camp that one of the things he's got to do is start throwing every day; that the long toss, we've got to build up his arm strength again, and then not baby him in Spring Training. Because that was a huge part of his game that was missing. I said we're going to do some different things with him offensively and try to get him going a little bit more, because this guy should help out. He's an outstanding player, and I told him, there's a reason why we signed that deal because we still think he's one of the keys.

Q. I know Kevin Long (indiscernible) in Arizona. Did anybody go?

TERRY COLLINS: I don't think anybody's been there yet. There are guys going to go in early January before we open up the camp in Florida.

Q. Are there any guys down yet?

TERRY COLLINS: Are there guys there? Yes. But are they involved, not just yet. I told them to take a little time to rest up so that they are not so tired in Spring Training that we start seeing those ribcage injuries pop up.

Q. Did you tell the pitchers to take it easy, as well?

TERRY COLLINS: I did. That's why I'm saying, even though it may be only two or three days, but usually a pitcher is there four or five days before the position players are going to get there. It's going to be longer, maybe seven or eight days before the position players get there. Again, just to make sure that we get that throwing program under control and make sure that they are ready to start the season, and yet not overdo it early in the season. Because, again, we plan on going deep and I'm not going to burn those guys out. I've seen it in the past where guys have never had to pitch that amount of innings, the next year, it takes their arms a little while to get back into condition to pitch. Hopefully by bringing them in early, we'll get that started.