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Mets manager aims to excite fans after overhaul of roster

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Photo gallery

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Mets manager Terry Collins (c.) shakes hands with his players before the start of the game. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A fan carries a sign dedicated to third baseman David Wright. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese prepares to release the ball. Photo by Christina Santucci
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John Buck slides in safely at home plate. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mets third baseman David Wright runs to first after hitting a single. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Astoria resident Peter Sobieski (c.) is joined by fellow fans James Jean (l.) and Steve Kupka. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Rusty Staub, who played on the 1973 Mets, prepares to throw out the first pitch. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fans stream out of the stadium after the Amazins' victory. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Padres outfielder Jesus Guzman makes a catch for an out. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A San Diego Padres player is surrounded by garbage that blew onto the field during the windy afternoon. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fans (l.-r.) Iva Ferrari, Joanna Falkenhainer and Anthony Speziale pose for the camera. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mets manager Terry Collins (r.) walks onto the field to accept a wreath featuring a horseshoe from members of the Shea family. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Fan RJ Treutle shows of his optimistic spirit. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Christine Blanshan (r.) plays a game of toss in the parking lot of Citi Field. Photo by Christina Santucci

There was a hint of defiance in the voice of Mets manager Terry Collins, the type you like to hear before an Opening Day game for a club with not much expected of it.

He was asked about the optimism about the organization’s future and how to change the culture from looking to compete to expecting to win. Collins in his third season at the helm believes that’s already begun. The New York Mets have never used the term rebuilding, though it’s been a gradual overhaul of the team’s roster.

Collins doesn’t plan on waiting to win.

“This is the Major Leagues,” he said. “I’m not going to ever sit there and say, ‘Well, we are going to be the whipping boys for the rest of the league while we wait for our young players.’ That’s not what’s going to go on here.”

The question and answer brought to the forefront the awkward, wait-and-see feel to Opening Day 2013 at Citi Field that included a number of empty seats despite an announced sellout. There are no expectations of division titles or trips to World Series. Those may come soon enough.

For now, it’s about playing as hard and as well as this group can in a loaded National League East and see where things go. So far, so good after an 11-2 drubbing of the San Diego Padres during which the Mets collected 13, including a grand slam from outfield addition Collin Cowgill in the seventh inning. Collins hopes it’s a start to making fans believe.

“One thing we are trying to do is establish credibility among our fans, get them as excited as they were last year,” Collins said. “We want to finish it off this year.”

Despite what Collins says, this year is also about finding out who is good enough to help the team in 2014 when general manager Sandy Alderson’s plan is expected to really begin to come together.

Top pitching prospect Matt Harvey is in the Mets starting rotation and it’s expected to be a key piece this year. Right-hander Zach Wheeler is in AAA and catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, who was acquired in a deal for pitcher R.A. Dickey, will begin the year in the minors. That’s the future along with Capt. David Wright, Opening Day starter Jonathan Niese and hopefully guys like Ike Davis, Lucus Duda and Rubin Tejda.

“They are certainly on the way,” Collins said of the team’s young players. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel here. When they start getting here, it’s going to be a really interesting team here the next few years.”

This year, though, let’s wait and see.

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