Commentary

Terry comes out on top

Without pushing or ruffling Carlos Beltran's feathers, Mets' manager gets his wish

Updated: February 28, 2011, 8:39 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Terry Collins wanted Carlos Beltran to move to right field. Yet the first-year New York Mets skipper decided to let his veteran outfielder come to that conclusion on his own -- or at least with the assistance of agent Scott Boras, friend Carlos Delgado and wife Jessica.

And when Beltran approached Collins on Monday morning and caught the manager off guard by saying it was time to make the switch from center field, Collins came out the big winner.

He got his way. He did not ruffle any feathers doing it. And he avoided a potential minefield.

"As a manager, when you're going to face a situation where you're thinking about a position change with a star player, you're hoping and you're praying that it goes like this," Collins said. "You're hoping your star walks in and tells you, 'Hey, look, this is what's best for this team at this particular moment. You'll have no problem with me. Now let's get ready to play.' That's what you're hoping for. But you've got to be ready for them to say, 'No, I'm a center fielder here.'

"Obviously, from the first day on, he's treated it right. This morning, when he said he wanted to talk, I really wasn't sure what it was about. ... [Afterward] I just said, 'I can't say anything but you're a pro. You're thinking about the team first. You're a pro. That's why I think this is going to be a great year. I think you're going to have a tremendous season. I do believe it's going to allow you to get your leg ready at your pace.'"

Beltran's decision is not entirely selfless. With less ground to cover in right field, at least in road ballparks, Beltran's chronically troubled right knee has a better chance of withstanding the season. Remember, Beltran had to halt his 2010 campaign with a week to go because of pain. And while the knee might feel relatively good now, let's see what happens in June when there has been a couple of months of baseball pounding on it again.

Theoretically, right field gives Beltran a better chance of maximizing his value when he enters free agency after the season for the first time since signing that seven-year, $119 million deal with the Mets after slugging eight homers in 12 postseason games as a Houston Astro.

"I was prepared to give him his seven to 10 days," Collins said. "Actually, I thought for sure he was going to want to try to probably play a couple of games in center field before he made the decision. But when he came in this morning he said, 'Look, it just doesn't make any sense. We need to move forward. You've got to get Angel [Pagan] ready. I've got to get ready.'

"It's got to send a huge message in that clubhouse that it's about the team -- a huge message coming from this guy. This guy is an All-Star, and until he probably hurt his knee one of the absolute best center fielders in the game."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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