PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Tim Tebow picked up his first hit of the spring Monday, singling to left field off Miami Marlins left-hander Kyle Lobstein and prompting a positive review from New York Mets manager Terry Collins.
"He understands baseball's a little different than football. You've got to learn by experience instead of having the coach right there next to you all the time at practice. You can't do that here," Collins said. "But I think he's gotten better. That's just my observation from the side."
Tebow, who had gone hitless in his first eight at-bats off major league competition this spring, was a late addition to the Mets lineup Monday. Collins said Tebow also will travel with the team to West Palm Beach on Tuesday for a game against the Houston Astros. Collins said Tebow will come off the bench in that game.
The former Heisman Trophy winner also made a headfirst diving catch in left field in the second inning to take a potential hit away from Justin Bour.
Tebow was not available to the media Monday unlike after his first two spring appearances. Collins said that was by design as the veteran manager tries to tap the breaks on the hype around the former Denver Broncos and New York Jets quarterback, who has drawn some of the loudest ovations from Mets fans this spring. Collins said he talked to Tebow about just being "one of the guys," on Monday.
The Mets are short on outfielders because Brandon Nimmo injured his hamstring playing for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
Collins said the Tebow sideshow has not been a distraction to the team, but added, "It's a distraction for me because I'm trying to get ready for a season. I think our job is to try to get everybody better, no matter who they are. I'm going to get him over here and get him some games when we need players. I talked to everybody involved and they're all for it, so we'll do that. He's not going to play a lot, but right now we need players because some guys are tired."
Collins was asked why Tebow, 29, was picked to play in these games rather than other Mets minor leaguers. The team is selling Tebow merchandise in the team store and online.
"The other guys are 18. He's not," Collins said. "I think if there's anybody who needs to make a fast jump, it'd be somebody in his category. When you talk to him about his experiences, it's about, 'Hey, look, you pick your game up when you play against better competition.' We're hoping that helps him get out of the gate. I'm hoping it helps him get out of the gate when he starts the season -- that he's faced a little bit better competition and the speed of the game is better so he can slow the game down when he needs to."