NEW YORK -- Terry Collins didn't want to lose Omar Quintanilla last season. So when the Mets signed the shortstop again this past offseason, it gave Collins a chance to regain the shortstop he considered a "big key" for the team.
The Mets designated Quintanilla for assignment in July of last season, and subsequently traded him to the Orioles for cash considerations. He was hitting .257 with a .350 on-base percentage in 29 games when he was traded.
"When we lost him last year to Baltimore, we were not happy about it," Collins said. "I was very happy for Q -- he got his chance to go back to the big leagues and play in the playoffs. But this guy played very well for us last year."
The Mets brought him back when they got the chance this past January, signing him as a free agent. It turned out to be an important move.
Quintanilla has been giving the Mets production at the plate and stellar defense in the field since the team called him up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Ruben Tejada, who went on the disabled list on May 30. He's hitting .257 with two home runs and 12 RBIs since then, and is hitting .368 over his last five games.
But his glove has given the Mets a boost. In Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Arizona, Quintanilla turned a quick-footed a 6-3 unassisted double play to end the first inning. Then in the fourth with a runner on first, he ranged to his left and made a diving stop and flipped the ball to Daniel Murphy to get the forceout at second base, ending the inning.
Tejada is currently working his way back from a right quad strain. He's played in five Minor League games, three in the Gulf Coast League and the last two with Las Vegas. Collins said he wants Tejada, who was hitting .209 when he went on the DL, to build up his confidence before he gets back to the big leagues.
For now, Quintanilla is ensuring the Mets are going to have a difficult decision to make when Tejada is ready to go. Still, he said he's not considering this a competition with Tejada.
"I think Ruben's a great player," Quintanilla said. "He's a great friend of mine. I just go out there and play the game and let them make the decisions."
Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.