ST. PETERSBURG -- Terry Collins recalls first meeting Tony La Russa in 1996, back when La Russa was in his first year managing the Cardinals and Collins was in his final summer with the Astros.
"The first time I met him, he walked over and said, 'Hi' like I had known him for years," Collins said. "I was very impressed by that, and obviously with the job he's done."
That positive impression apparently went both ways. Citing Collins' success in the face of adversity in New York, La Russa on Wednesday named the Mets' manager to his National League coaching staff for next month's All-Star Game in Kansas City.
"It's an honor," Collins said. "It's an honor to be asked, and certainly it's a thrill to be associated with the game itself. I am truly honored. I told Tony I was shocked."
"I've known and respected him for years," La Russa said. "But I think the job that he did last year -- nobody had more adversity than that, and he kept the club competing. And he's doing it again this year. I just think you need to recognize when somebody is handling a ballclub and day in, day out, there's no difference how they compete. If the stars are hurt, they still keep competing and he still keeps getting contributions. So I think it's a well-deserved honor."
Collins, who previously coached under Felipe Alou at the 1995 All-Star Game, will join Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on La Russa's staff. Both men will likely begin the game as the NL's first- and third-base coaches, before retiring to the dugout to advise La Russa during the middle innings.
Collins is 110-114 over his first season-plus with the Mets, despite going long stretches last season without key players David Wright, Jose Reyes, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy. Despite a losing season, the Mets exercised the 2013 option on Collins' contract last September.
"It's not just my opinion," said La Russa, who will come out of retirement to manage the NL squad. "He's very well-regarded for a lot of reasons. He's got a real good grasp of the game."
Ike gets nod against lefty Price at The Trop
ST. PETERSBURG -- On paper, Rays left-hander David Price presented a bad matchup for Ike Davis -- the type of matchup to which Mets manager Terry Collins once swore he would avoid exposing his slumping first baseman.
But with Davis beginning to show signs of life at the plate, Collins penciled him into Wednesday's lineup at Tropicana Field, batting Davis seventh against Price and the Rays. It marked just the second time in eight games that Davis had started against a left-handed starter -- and this one just so happened to come against the American League's co-leader in wins.
"I just wanted Ike to get in there," Collins said. "I just think it's important that we start running our lineup out there. We've got to start finding out what we've got."
Collins did make some concessions against Price, starting Scott Hairston over Lucas Duda in right field, Mike Nickeas over Josh Thole at catcher and Vinny Rottino over a host of eligible candidates at designated hitter. But he said he was "intent" on playing Davis as well, one day after the first baseman went 2-for-4 with his first home run in more than a month.
"You know what? Everybody's going to go 0-for-4," Collins said. "Just because he's facing a tough pitcher tonight and he's 0-for-3, or if he's 1-for-4, that's not a setback. If Ike has a bad night, that's not a big deal."
Annual blood drive set for Thursday at Citi Field
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Mets will hold their annual summer blood drive Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET at Citi Field, in partnership with the New York Blood Center.
All fans donating blood will receive a pair of tickets to a 2012 home game, as well as a voucher redeemable for 15 percent off regularly priced merchandise at the Mets Team Store in Citi Field. Season-ticket holders who donate blood can receive a 20-percent discount with their voucher. All discounts are good only on June 14.
Donors must be at least 17 years old (16 with parental permission), weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. Those donating can enter the ballpark through the Hodges VIP entrance along the first-base line.
Infielder Justin Turner will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Triple-A Buffalo. Turner has been on the disabled list since May 29 with a sprained right ankle and ligament damage in his foot.
Mets manager Terry Collins indicated that second baseman Daniel Murphy will receive a routine day off in Thursday's series finale against the Rays. Murphy has seen his OPS plummet from .754 on June 2 to .648 entering Wednesday's play, and is hitting .139 with zero extra-base hits over that span.
Collins said that both Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Lucas Duda will play every day when the Mets return to Citi Field this weekend to face a run of at least three consecutive right-handed starters. That means that Jason Bay, who is 0-for-16 since returning from the disabled list, will have to jockey for playing time with Andres Torres and Scott Hairston.
The Mets on Wednesday released right-hander Scott Moviel, their second-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Moviel, 24, went 5-10 with a 5.10 ERA in 23 starts and three relief appearances last season for Class A St. Lucie.