NEW YORK -- Terry Collins didn't want to lose Omar Quintanilla last season. So when the Mets signed the shortstop again this past offseason, it gave Collins a chance to regain the shortstop he considered a "big key" for the team.
The Mets designated Quintanilla for assignment in July of last season, and subsequently traded him to the Orioles for cash considerations. He was hitting .257 with a .350 on-base percentage in 29 games when he was traded.
"When we lost him last year to Baltimore, we were not happy about it," Collins said. "I was very happy for Q -- he got his chance to go back to the big leagues and play in the playoffs. But this guy played very well for us last year."
The Mets brought him back when they got the chance this past January, signing him as a free agent. It turned out to be an important move.
Quintanilla has been giving the Mets production at the plate and stellar defense in the field since the team called him up from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Ruben Tejada, who went on the disabled list on May 30. He's hitting .257 with two home runs and 12 RBIs since then, and is hitting .368 over his last five games.
But his glove has given the Mets a boost. In Wednesday's 5-3 loss to Arizona, Quintanilla turned a quick-footed a 6-3 unassisted double play to end the first inning. Then in the fourth with a runner on first, he ranged to his left and made a diving stop and flipped the ball to Daniel Murphy to get the forceout at second base, ending the inning.
Tejada is currently working his way back from a right quad strain. He's played in five Minor League games, three in the Gulf Coast League and the last two with Las Vegas. Collins said he wants Tejada, who was hitting .209 when he went on the DL, to build up his confidence before he gets back to the big leagues.
For now, Quintanilla is ensuring the Mets are going to have a difficult decision to make when Tejada is ready to go. Still, he said he's not considering this a competition with Tejada.
"I think Ruben's a great player," Quintanilla said. "He's a great friend of mine. I just go out there and play the game and let them make the decisions."
Buck ejected after pinch-hit strikeout in 12th
NEW YORK -- John Buck thought he gave his team a leadoff baserunner in the bottom of the 12th inning of Thursday's game against the D-backs, but ended up out of the game altogether.
The catcher, pinch-hitting for relief pitcher Carlos Torres, started swinging at a pitch below the strike zone and tried to hold up before jogging to first base.
By the time he was almost halfway to first base, home-plate umpire Tim Welke signaled to first-base ump Mike Everitt, who said Buck went around. Buck, clearly frustrated, reluctantly trotted to the dugout, arguing the call on the way before getting tossed by Everitt.
First home run the icing on Satin's hot streak
NEW YORK -- Josh Satin said it wasn't necessarily a relief to hit his first Major League home run, but it was certainly something he was anticipating. The wait ended on Wednesday after 68 big league at-bats.
"It's definitely something special that I was looking forward to," Satin said. "I'm glad it happened."
With two outs in the fourth inning, D-backs starter Randall Delgado threw Satin a 3-2 fastball inside that Satin squared up for a long homer into the left-field seats. It was the second home run of the inning, coming two batters after David Wright had a solo shot of his own.
Satin said he had about 50 messages on his phone when he got back to his locker after the game. Everyone from former coaches and teammates in high school and college to family members called to congratulate him. Since the game was nationally televised, they had a chance to see it live.
A team employee was able to find the fan who caught Satin's home run ball, and exchanged it for one of Satin's bats.
The home run continued Satin's hot hitting. He's reached base safely in 14 straight games, and carries a nine-game hitting streak into Thursday's game against Arizona. He's hitting .412 over that span. And in his last six games going back to June 28, Satin has a Major League-leading seven extra-base hits in that span.
Satin had nine home runs in 59 games with Triple-A Las Vegas before being called up to the Mets on June 11. He's been more focused on grinding out at-bats in the Majors, and it's been paying off in strong production.
On Wednesday night, it earned him a milestone.
Collins notes young Wheeler's quiet fire
NEW YORK -- Matt Harvey embodies intensity. Zack Wheeler lies somewhere on the other end of the spectrum. He's typically more laid back, but Terry Collins still sees the same underlying intensity that a starting pitcher, especially a young one, needs to keep getting better in the Major Leagues.
After dazzling for six innings of scoreless ball in his Major League debut, Wheeler has had two subpar starts, allowing four and five runs in each of those outings. On Wednesday, he threw a side session to prepare of Friday's start against the Brewers.
His mechanics were off. He went in focused on finishing his release over his front side, but too often he was following through out wide. It was a bad session, but there were no opposing hitters to make him pay for his mistakes. He even said a bad side session rarely has any correlation with the upcoming game, but he was still angry.
"I love that," Collins said. "I love that about these guys. They demand perfection."
"Any pitcher who doesn't throw a good side going into a game doesn't feel happy about it," Wheeler said.
But he's still learning; still a "work in progress," as Collins said.
Part of the problem could lie in Wheeler overthinking the way he faces hitters. Too often, Collins said, pitchers focus on the hitters' weaknesses and not their own strengths. For a power pitcher like Wheeler, that means throwing more fastballs.
In his debut, 68.6 percent of his pitches were fastballs. Against the Nationals on Sunday, Wheeler only threw 66.3 percent fastballs -- the fewest of his young career.
"You have to pitch to your strengths," Collins said. "You can't always pitch to the hitters' weaknesses."
Even if Wheeler's and Harvey's personalities are distinctly different, Collins sees the similarities. Collins sees the "mean streak" Wheeler needs to succeed -- he plunked one of his own teammates during Spring Training -- and of course both dealt with or are dealing with unwieldy expectations.
"The expectations for this kid are out of sight, and in a year or so, they should be," Collins said of Wheeler. "Because he's got that kind of ability to make things special."
When Collins watches Harvey pitch, it's a reminder of just what Wheeler can become. Collins watched Harvey take his bumps and bruises in 2012 before blossoming into a National League Cy Young contender this year. They handle things differently, but Harvey and Wheeler have the same goals, and really, the same mentality. Harvey's separated himself now, but last year he was in the same place, and it didn't take him long to get past his worst days.
"We saw with Matt last year," Collins said. "Now look what we got."
• Along with the rest of Major League Baseball, the Mets wore specially designed "Stars and Stripes" caps from New Era in celebration of Independence Day. All proceeds from the sale of the caps will go to Welcome Back Veterans. The Mets also brought in Master Sergeant Mary Kay Messenger of the U.S. Army to sing the national anthem, as well as God Bless America in the seventh inning.
Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.