Manuel's main rule: Play hard

Manuel's main rule: Play hard

ANAHEIM -- Go on, Mets, grow the scruff. Jerry Manuel doesn't care.

"I'm giving them some freedom," Manuel said. "I don't care what you look like, how your hair looks, your growth -- it doesn't matter to me. Just play hard."

The Mets interim manager doesn't have many rules -- "except to be on time," he said -- which means that the temporary bans on clubhouse music and facial hair that marked Willie Randolph's tenure as skipper shouldn't resurface under Manuel.

But clubhouse anarchy, this is not. If anything, Manuel proved his authority early during his first game on Tuesday as manager, removing Jose Reyes from the lineup and admonishing him after he slammed his helmet to the ground in disgust.

Reyes, who felt tightness in his left hamstring, later apologized to both Manuel and his teammates. He was back in the lineup, feeling fine on Wednesday.

"Once you step into an authoritative position, you've got to be an authority," Manuel said. "That's the bottom line, and that has to be accepted. I'm not here to make friends, or for people to like me, or for people to say this or that about me. I'm here to run the club in the best way that I think is possible."

Given his four-year tenure with the Mets as a coach -- and as a buddy for so many of these players -- Manuel could encounter some tricky situations when he needs the Mets to view him as a boss. But he's already gone about the process of transforming his image, building new relationships with his players and keeping rules to a minimum.

Not everything will change. Manuel will still joke with his players, lounge in the clubhouse with them and refer affectionately to them all as "gangsters." But at other times, he won't.

"I'm still in the process of that," Manuel said. "I think that rules without relationships equal rebellion, and I'm trying to establish those relationships first."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.