LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Saying be believes Ruben Tejada has "learned a tremendous lesson," Mets manager Terry Collins on Tuesday expressed comfort with the idea of using Tejada as his Opening Day shortstop.
"This is his career that's at stake here," Collins said. "If he's willing to pay the price and get himself to where he was a couple years ago, then he can play a long time."
Delivering that same message to Tejada at the end of this season, Collins believes it resonated with a player whose on-base percentage dipped dramatically each year from age 21 through 23. Tejada was among a handful of players who recently traveled to Michigan for a team-supervised nutrition and conditioning camp, with plans to return next month.
Whether that pays dividends will be crucial for the Mets, who appear increasingly unlikely to give away Tejada's job. As general manager Sandy Alderson first noted after Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cardinals last month, the market for shortstops has proven much more expensive than the front office first anticipated. Barring a trade, the Mets seem unlikely to upgrade at the position. Instead, they could sign a veteran -- Cesar Izturis' name has been floated -- to mentor and support Tejada.
Stephen Drew, the one clear upgrade still available through free agency, could command a deal similar to Peralta's and is not currently in the Mets' crosshairs. Asked directly about Drew on Monday, Alderson replied that "we're looking at all the shortstop possibilities, even the ones we have internally."
"Right now it's a baseball decision," Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said of his team's decision to ignore the Scott Boras client. "Sandy hasn't come to say, 'Hey, we have to sign Stephen Drew' -- or anybody else, for that matter. They're looking at things on the whole, so it's not financial at this point."