Randolph facing injuries, expectations

Randolph deals with injuries, expectations

Mets manager Willie Randolph recently fielded questions about Spring Training, the upcoming regular season, shortstop Jose Reyes and more.

MLB.com: Injuries are part of the game. We all recognize that. But this spring has been absurd in that regard by any standard. I know you can deal with it -- because you have to. But after the way last season ended, I'm sure you would have preferred a camp without bumps. Right?

Randolph: Yes, you always want it to go smoothly. But it is what it is -- even with Moises [Alou]. You have to find a way. And what happened last year doesn't have any part in that. We've moved past it. Bringing in Johan Santana helps us do that. It gave us something very positive to focus on. The injuries are more than we expected now, but for most of them, they came early.

Winning games in Spring Training, especially early, doesn't mean diddly-squat. The last two weeks, 10 days, that's when you want to be playing well. That's when you want to get your rhythm. Last season won't make any difference with that. You want to be playing sound, crisp, alert, smart, fundamental baseball then. We're still getting the kinks out now. The injured guys will get them out in time.

The injuries, you just don't know what to expect. It's like playing the game -- you don't know how the ball is going to bounce. It's why you put together as much talent and depth as you can, and hope to stay healthy and hope for the best.

MLB.com: From what I can see, the skills of the players likely to play regularly pretty much dictate what the batting order is going to be. There's not much room to experiment or improvise. Jose Reyes is going to lead off and Castillo seemed to fit well at No. 2 last year. And you're not going to move David Wright to sixth. Do you see it that way?

Randolph: Not really. I might bat David fourth. ... And with us, it almost doesn't matter if everyone totally buys into being patient and taking the walk when it's there. We have enough experience in our lineup that that can be done. I've seen what patience at the plate can do. But we haven't committed to it; not everyone all the time. We have to focus on the "team RBI." We have to want it that way. No one man has to the get the RBI for us to be successful. If everyone is patient, we'll get to that at-bat when [the pitcher] will have to come in. Then you do the damage, no matter who it is.

MLB.com: I think we all were a little startled when Carlos Beltran identified the Mets as "the team to beat." This many weeks later, what's your take on what he said?

Randolph: From what I was told, he said it almost as if it were an afterthought in response to a question.

MLB.com: Not really. His response wasn't prompted by a direct question.

Randolph: I don't know, but I don't take much from what he said. I don't know what his mood was when he said it. Maybe he was trying to be playful. I don't think it was Jimmy Rollins-esque the way it came out. But what he said ... that's the way I want all my players to feel. We are a good team. We have a lot of weapons and a lot of ways to win. With the talent we have, we should feel we're the team to beat.

The other thing is, no matter how he said it or meant it, now he has to back it up, because it became a big thing.

MLB.com: You went down to the Dominican Republic and saw Reyes in his own environment. What was that experience like?

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Randolph: We went down to see the complex we have there. But I did get a chance to see Jose and meet his family and see where he grew up. It was a nice feel. We got to sit and talk privately. In my mind, it was good to be in a different atmosphere. We had a good talk. We never got into last year. We're more interested in where we're going. Jose wants to win -- I've always known that.

A couple of times last year, he lost his concentration. But he's still a young man. You don't want that to happen. But no one should think he doesn't care.

MLB.com: There was a line of thinking -- or speculating -- last year that somehow Rickey Henderson was a negative influence on Reyes. I'm not sure how that thinking came about. But what's your take on it?

Randolph: I think it might have been just the opposite -- that Jose wanted to impress Rickey, and he did things for that reason. That whole thing has been examined to death. I think Jose started to struggle and just didn't know how to get out of it. It was nothing to do with Rickey or [Jose's] not caring. It had to do with learning. He's still learning. He needs time, and he needs guidance sometimes. No one knows everything. We all ask questions.

That's why we're here, the staff. I don't have to crack the whip with Jose. But if there is something to say, I say it. It's all constructive. It's all aimed at making him a better player. I'm not putting extra pressure on him, but I do expect a lot from him. I'm here to help. I'm going to teach him to play the game right. He wants to know all there is to know.

MLB.com: When is your book going to be published?

Randolph: Originally, it was going to come out in the fall -- fall 2008. But we decided to push it to next spring so we could include our World Series.

MLB.com: That's an interesting way to put it.

Randolph: We want it to be an interesting book and have as much as it can. We thought it would be good to have the World Series in it.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.