Jose Reyes only one of the reasons Blue Jays should be scary
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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- On Friday, former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes poured his heart out, discussing the disappointment of his 2012 season with the Miami Marlins and expressing resentment about being misled about his long-term status with that organization.
By Saturday, that was behind him. It was all about his new team, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Sporting a beard that would do Abraham Lincoln proud, Reyes pulled on his blue No. 7 batting practice jersey, carried his Little League-sized practice glove to the field, selected a shiny black bat to spray batting-practice shots from both sides of the plate and yucked it up with new teammates.
"It's going to be great," Reyes said of his new team and role at the top of the order, with newly acquired Melky Cabrera and sluggers Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Brett Lawrie hitting behind him.
"I've got one job to do here -- that's get on base as much as possible. I know if I get on base a lot, I'm going to score a lot of runs and help this ballclub win a lot of ballgames."
The Blue Jays upgraded in multiple areas during the offseason, notably with the acquisition of starting pitchers R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. Reyes, who led the National League with a .337 average in 2011, his final season with the Mets, figures to be a significant upgrade at shortstop.
Playing his home games on the artificial turf of Rogers Centre could be an additional boost for Reyes, a four-time All-Star who has led the NL in stolen bases three times and triples four times.
"I can't wait to play there," he said to a crowd of reporters gathered at his locker. "No matter where I play, [triples] are always something I have in mind any time I hit the ball to the gap. Last time I played there, I had a very good series, so I think it might help my game."
Bautista said he "gets excited" when he thinks about the Blue Jays' offensive potential.
"We haven't had a true leadoff guy since [Marco] Scutaro left, and he wasn't really a true leadoff guy," Bautista said. "He did have some good leadoff-hitter characteristics, like getting on base and not striking out much, but he didn't steal bases. Now we have the whole package and with [Emilio] Bonifacio possibly batting ninth, we're basically going to have a second leadoff guy."
Bonifacio, a candidate to play second base, stole 40 bases in 2011 and 30 bases in 64 games for the Marlins last season.
"Bonifacio has real speed," Bautista said. "It's a good mix. The better they do, the better Edwin [Encarnacion] and I are going to be able to drive in runs."
The Blue Jays stumbled to a 73-89 record and batted only .245 as a team in 2012. With Bautista (27 homers, 65 RBIs) limited to 92 games by an injury to his left wrist, only Encarnacion (42 homers, 110 RBIs) drove in more than 75 runs. With reasonable health, that should change.
"That's what I was telling Reyes today," Encarnacion said. "You get ready, because you're going to score a lot of runs."
Former Yankee Cabrera, 28, who hit .346 last season, also will give the Blue Jays a boost. He was named MVP of the All-Star Game before being suspended for 50 games after a positive test for testosterone. That didn't prevent the Jays and general manager Alex Anthopoulos from committing to him for two years and $16 million.
Bautista, an established leader in the clubhouse as well as at the plate (124 homers the last three seasons), has the utmost confidence in Cabrera and said he expressed it to team management before the signing.
"You don't want to acquire somebody who's going to be a black sheep or a rotten tomato and ruin the atmosphere in the clubhouse or team chemistry," Bautista said. "I think [Jays management] does a good job of trying to not only figure out who the player is but who they're going to get as the person as well.
"Melky is a great person. He's not perfect. He made a mistake and admitted it. But his baseball skills are way above average. I can't say why he didn't have success in New York, but he's a great hitter who's going to make contact, not going to strike out too much, going to steal bases, play defense and hold runners. I think a lot of people are [overlooking] what he's going to bring to the defensive side because he has a great arm and knows where to throw the ball, which is going to prevent runs. That's almost as good as driving in runs."
As for that team chemistry, Reyes loves it.
"I see every guy in here walking around happy," he said. "That's good to see. I can't wait for everyone to get together on the field.''
Reyes concedes that anything less than a playoff appearance will be a disappointment this season. But after last season's misery in Miami, he plans to let things play out on the field.
"A lot of people are talking about the Toronto Blue Jays, saying 'they've got a good ballclub.' No matter what people say, everything sounds good on paper," he said. "We have to put it on the field. It is no matter what people say. When you talk, that's not going to win ballgames. You've got to show on the field what you are capable of doing."