By some cosmic twist – or maybe just by coincidence – the two men gravitated toward each other. Before their cleats shared infield dirt for the first time this spring, Daniel Murphy walked into a Japanese restaurant and spotted his shortstop.

Good second basemen know the location of their shortstop at all times, but this chance meeting caught Murphy off guard.

"He was actually the first person I saw when I came into spring training," Murphy said.

Ruben Tejada set up shop in Florida early this season, a full week before position players were required to report. This is not unusual in Camp Collins – only four out of 58 players are still missing – but it’s a significant step for Tejada.

A year ago he did not arrive early, and Mets manger Terry Collins used his daily briefings with the media as a way to convey his disappointment.

"One of the things we’ve really stressed is the importance of starting the season right," Collins said Thursday morning. "And one of the best ways to do it is to have guys in game shape, midseason form, starting April 1. And they do that by being here early."

On Thursday morning, Tejada beat most other position players into the clubhouse. He was changing out of his teal dress shirt at 8:11, a time when the locker room was populated by pitchers. It was a soggy morning. The fields outside were unusable. Still, Tejada arrived to take swings.

He hit .289 last season, but his average bled 34 points over the season’s final two months. He was hitting .323 on Aug. 9.