NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — When the Mets decided to ship Tim Tebow out to the Arizona Fall League in October, they did so fully believing he was “overmatched” — general manager Sandy Alderson’s word — by the competition there. But the Mets sent him anyway because they believed if Tebow were to succeed at age 29, his crash course in baseball would need to include as many actual games as possible.

With that in mind, the Mets are all but certain to assign Tebow to Minor League camp this February — not to big league Spring Training, where the lights and attention would be brighter. But the Mets do plan to borrow Tebow from the Minors on a regular basis, giving him exposure to Major League pitching in Grapefruit League games.

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“We understand he’s a little bit older so the process needs to accelerate at some point,” Alderson said. “But we still need to be prudent about it, and put him in situations where he can succeed, and not be viewed as a — I was going to say ‘circus animal,’ but that’s probably not appropriate.”

Alderson joked, because he understands the sideshow that Tebow — a former NFL quarterback and current celebrity with more fame than even the average Major Leaguer — can create. But Alderson is doing his best to continue evaluating Tebow on a baseball-only basis, as difficult as that may be.

“All things considered, he did a nice job,” Alderson said of Tebow, who hit .194 with a .538 OPS in 19 AFL games. “We knew he’d be overmatched in the Arizona Fall League, but we also felt that he needed to play games. And so as we look going into Spring Training and his first full season, I think the same priorities would hold true. He needs to play games.”

For Tebow, the progression should go from Minor League Spring Training to a full-season affiliate, likely at the Class A level. Beyond that is anyone’s guess, depending in large part upon how Tebow fares.

For now, the Mets are simply interested to see how he reacts come spring. Manager Terry Collins, who met Tebow during a brief visit to the Arizona Fall League in October, described him as “a big boy” with a penchant for winning. Alderson cited Tebow’s AFL stint as evidence that he has already had a positive impact on his teammates in the clubhouse.

Whatever sideshow Tebow’s presence creates in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Collins added, will be manageable.

“We’re in New York,” Collins said. “We can handle anybody with a name on his back in our camp. If they decide to send him to camp, we’ll get him better.”

Added Collins: “One thing about our players, they’re athletes, too. They’re fans, too. They would probably like to know how to run a quarterback sneak one day.”

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Source: Mets News / Mets plan to assign Tebow to Minors camp