Jose Reyes ignites suddenly hot Mets
Shortshop happy, healthy and contributing in New York
Jose Reyes marked the first anniversary of the worst week of his life by having one of the best weeks of his life.
The New York Mets shortstop started spraying hits all over the place, including the 1,000th of his career, scooting around the infield on defense, stealing bases, scoring runs and generally creating mayhem for opposing teams. From May 20 to May 27, Reyes raised his batting average 33 points to .249, going 14-for-32 with seven runs scored, a home run, six RBIs and two stolen bases.
"Spring Training is over," he declared.
Reyes' preparation for the season came during the season, an unfortunate circumstance for the Mets who learned last year how vital the shortstop is to their success. With their energizer limited to 36 games in 2009 because of a stubborn hamstring injury, the team struggled to a 70-92 record.
There was surgery last October to clean out scar tissue around the hamstring tendon behind his right knee, and Reyes came to training camp in February raring to go. He had a trademark triple in his first intrasquad game at-bat. He was back, it seemed, until a routine blood test revealed troubling thyroid levels. And just like that, he was shut down again.
So while the Mets were preparing for the season, Reyes was back on his sofa, his diet restricted to no seafood, his activities limited to watching movies. "I was told to do nothing," he said. "I watched 15 movies. I could be a critic."
What the Mets needed, though, was a shortstop.
Reyes returned to the team a week before Spring Training ended. So when the season began in April, his preparation was still in February, and it showed as he struggled to settle in. The situation was further complicated when Reyes, a leadoff man for all his baseball life, was dropped to No. 3 in the Mets batting order, a radical move that was sort of like trying to fit a hamburger in a hot dog bun. The switch ended a stretch of 591 games in which he led off for the Mets.
"I do what they think is best for the team," he said.
But he was clearly uncomfortable, and the experiment was discarded after 20 games in which he batted an anemic .207. He returned to the leadoff spot May 15 and celebrated with two hits and two runs scored. "It is like I am home again," he said. "This is what I do all my life."
The move back to the top of the lineup yielded immediate results. Reyes began to look like himself again. Backup infielder Alex Cora noted his importance, saying, "That little guy is the key to our success."
The Mets are at their best when Reyes is at his best and they learned just how important he is a year ago when they had to operate without him for most of the season.
The trouble started last May 20 when Reyes limped off the field in Los Angeles. Six days later, he was placed on the disabled list where he would remain for the rest of the season. For a player who relies so heavily on his legs, it was a devastating turn of events.
"It was hard, very tough on me," Reyes said. "I expect to play 150 games every year and now it was taken away. This is what I love, to play baseball. And now I could not."
The shortstop began his rehabilitation in Florida and Reyes being Reyes, he pushed the process. "I tried to come back too soon," he said. "I felt good. I tried to test the leg and it was not working at all."
It was just about that time that Reyes was shut down for the duration.
"It was kind of hard, watching my team on TV every day, knowing I couldn't be on the field, couldn't play the game I love so much."
So when May 20 rolled around this year, the date carried special significance for Reyes, the date his personal Spring Training ended and his own season began.
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.