MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Collins talks state of the Mets with MLB.com

Manager led club to World Series appearance in 2015

Collins talks state of the Mets with MLB.com

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Mets pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Port St. Lucie, Fla., in 31 days, and manager Terry Collins said he's already getting ready for it.

Collins didn't waste any words this weekend weighing in with MLB.com on a number of issues facing the defending National League champions, including the possible return of free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and the way he intends to use his young starting pitchers this season.

The manager said he's still hopeful that general manager Sandy Alderson can re-sign Cespedes, who batted .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs for the Mets after the last-minute July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal that brought him over from the Tigers.

"I talked to Sandy today, and hopefully we'll continue to move forward [in those negotiations]," said Collins, who was in town for the annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation Dinner and received the Tommy Lasorda Managerial Achievement Award. "I don't know where Cespedes is at contract-wise with anybody else, but I know he wants to come back to New York if he can. He's a great player and we'd love to have him back."

Cespedes reportedly near end of free agency

Collins said he anticipates no restrictions this year on younger pitchers Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, after innings limits were such a hot topic surrounding the club in 2015.

"No, fortunately we're not going to have to worry about innings this year," Collins said. "We're going to be fine."

Still, Collins isn't taking any chances and is mapping out a relaxing Spring Training for his young arms.

"I think we're always going to be concerned with workload," Collins said. "These guys are still young and we don't want them to get hurt. We're going to be careful in Spring Training, bring them along a little slowly. I've done a lot of research of some of these teams in the past that have had young pitchers.

"One of the things I've learned is that you've got to be careful early in the year. If you're planning on having them pitch in October, then they have to be ready."

Despite the constant adjustments to the rotation this past season, the Mets finished 90-72 and won their first pennant since 2000 before losing to the Royals in a five-game World Series. Right-handers Harvey and deGrom had previously undergone Tommy John surgery, with Harvey missing the 2014 season because of the procedure.

Collins recaps the Mets' season

Collins also said that Zack Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery last March, is ahead of schedule and throwing down in Florida.

"He looks tremendous," Collins said. "He's in St. Lucie now. He's throwing. He realizes it's going to be a couple of months before he's ready to go. That's why we got Bartolo [Colon] back. We thought we'd get back a quality starter like Bartolo, especially for early in the year. You look at what Bartolo has done early in the year, and he's put up big numbers."

To Collins' point, the 42-year-old Colon, who signed a one-year, $7.25 million contract on Dec. 18 to return for his third season with the Mets, was 8-3 in his first 11 starts this past April and May.

DiComo on Colon returning to NY

The concern about arm strength and wariness about repeat elbow injuries caused the Mets to go to a six-man rotation at times during the 2015 season. Harvey, on a projected innings count of 180, struggled to adjust to it but still went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in 189 1/3 innings over 29 starts. He made another four starts and pitched 26 2/3 innings in the postseason, working into the ninth inning of the final World Series game.

Harvey, who will be 27 before the start of the season, was unhappy at times about the way he was used last year, complaining privately to the manager and sometimes publicly. Collins said Harvey now has adjusted mentally and physically.

"I've heard great things," Collins said. "He's getting himself in good shape."

Collins reflects on key decision

Collins will also have right-hander Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz -- who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 -- available at the beginning of the season. Syndergaard didn't come up from the Minors last year until May 12, and Matz made his big league debut on June 28. The 24-year-old Matz -- 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA -- was limited to just six starts because of a partially torn lat muscle.

Every year is different, Collins knows. This offseason, the Mets shored up the middle-infield defense by obtaining second baseman Neil Walker from the Pirates on Dec. 9 in a trade for pitcher Jon Niese and signed free-agent shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to a two-year, $18.5 million deal days later.

"We think they're both pretty good players," Collins said. "They bring both sides of the game to us. They're both pretty good offensive players. We think we got better."

Cabrera on signing with the Mets

Collins has also been monitoring the health of veteran captain and third baseman David Wright, who was limited to 38 games last year because of spinal stenosis and looked tentative during the postseason.

"He's doing great. He looks tremendous," Collins said. "He feels good. He's working very, very hard, which is what he does all the time. He's being careful with the baseball stuff and just making sure that the strength in the back is there."

But Collins is well aware that a repeat of last season's first-place finish in the NL East will rely on the success of his young pitching.

"With our pitching staff, if we score a few runs, we'll have a good chance to win," he said. "We were very, very proud of the way our team played last year. We just didn't finish it off. Hopefully, we're going to get another chance."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.