- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. (AP) - Wanted by the New York Mets: a second baseman who can produce on offense and play dependable defense.

Never mind Luis Castillo is in the final year of a $25 million, four-year contract to play the position, he’ll have to compete with Daniel Murphy, Brad Emaus and Justin Turner for the starting spot.

Castillo is coming off a season in which he appeared in just 86 games and hit .235. Plagued by a foot injury, Castillo was an afterthought late in the season and rarely played.

He’ll have to prove he can hit with consistency again to impress his new manager.

“Second base has become to me an enormous offensive position,” Collins said Wednesday. “Why? I’m not really sure except some of the guys that have been playing there recently have put up huge numbers at second. … It’s become an offensive position, so to me that’s a big piece of the puzzle.”

While offense is important, Collins said he won’t ignore defense.

“You still got to be able to get out of an inning, so you’ve got to turn a double play,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to turn that double play and, as I’ve said all along, I truly believe it, you’ve got to catch the baseball. We’ve got to play defense and you’ve got to catch it.”

Castillo will be competing against Emaus, a winter-meeting draft pick who spent last season in the Blue Jays minor league system; Murphy, who lost his starting job at first base to Ike Davis after an injury last year; and Turner, who was claimed off waivers from Baltimore last year and spent most of the season in Triple-A Buffalo.

Collins reiterated that all four would get equal opportunities to start in exhibition games. The Mets open against the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.

“You only can judge it at the speed at the major league level so that’s why it’s important that we give them all a chance in spring training to show what they can do,” Collins said.

Collins said Castillo will start Saturday while Murphy will make the trip to Orlando and start the split squad game against the Braves on Sunday. Emaus and Turner will get starts early next week, Collins said.

Third baseman David Wright told Collins he wanted the chance to play with all four in games so he could get a feel for each of them. Shortstop Jose Reyes said he’s use to adjusting to different second baseman.

“Throughout my career I’ve bee playing with a lot of different second baseman,” Reyes said. “This year, I see it’s a couple different guys. I don’t have a problem with that. We just need to take a lot of groundballs in practice and put it together.”

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