- Associated Press
Thursday, February 24, 2011

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLA. (AP) - Ronny Paulino’s absence from spring training because of visa problems isn’t yet a concern to New York Mets manager Terry Collins.

The catcher has been unable to leave the Dominican Republic because of issues related to his 50-game drug suspension last season while with the Florida Marlins.

Paulino agreed to a $1.3 million, one-year contract with the Mets during the offseason and is expected to back up Josh Thole. Paulino has eight games remaining on his suspension.

“We’ve got a lot of time to get him ready,” Collins said Thursday. “Six weeks for spring training is about getting the pitching staff ready. I think you can get a hitter ready to play in 10 days or two weeks, to be honest.”

Paulino batted .259 with four homers and 37 RBIs last season for the Marlins.

While hitting and defense might not be a concern, Paulino does lack familiarity with the Mets pitchers.

“He can learn that fast,” Collins said. “He’ll get familiar, and he’ll be sitting around all those meetings with the pitchers as we get ready to play.”

Collins has been impressed by Jason Isringhausen, in camp with a minor league contract as he tries to come back from 2009 elbow surgery.

“I saw a changeup today I never saw him throw before, and I thought it was a great pitch,” Collins said. “He said he hasn’t used it, but it really had good life to it, and with his arm speed, I think it could be really effective.”

The 38-year-old reliever said he hasn’t thrown a changeup on a regular basis since around 1996, his last full season as a starter.

“I’ll keep throwing it then, if he likes it” Isringhausen said. “All you have to do is show those guys (hitters) on video you have a changeup, so they have to keep it in the back of their mind. Will it be my bread and butter? Not right now, but it could be. I always told myself I could do anything with a baseball if I worked at it.”

Collins also was pleased to see Carlos Beltran running bases. The outfielder is building strength in his surgically repaired right knee and likely will be used as a designated hitter early in the exhibition season.

“That’s a huge sign because he told me when he starts rounding the bases, he will be closing to playing,” Collins said.

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