MANAGER: Ozzie Guillen, first season (overall 678-617, .524 )
GM: Michael Hill
STADIUM: Marlins Park (37,442)
OUTLOOK: The most drastically changed team from over the winter, the Marlins open their new ballpark with high expectations and arguably the talent to live up to them.
CONCERN: There?s much combustibility here, from Guillen to owner Jeffrey Loria to SS Jose Reyes? health to 3B Hanley Ramirez?s happiness.
BOTTOM LINE: They?re too big to fail. They made too many helpful moves over the winter for things to completely blow up like they did last year.
Photo Credit: AP
JUPITER, Fla. -- R.A. Dickey had to suppress a giggle when a familiar face stepped to the plate Thursday at Roger Dean Stadium.
Gone were the signature dreadlocks, and Dickey needed a moment to process the uniform change as well.
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Minutes later, the reunion was over. Jose Reyes plays for the Miami Marlins now, and neither side expressed much regret after the first meeting between the Mets and their former homegrown star.
Reyes certainly seems happy with the Marlins, and the Mets, well, they're dealing with his absence.
"He was trying hard not to make eye contact," Dickey said. "But when he got in the batter's box, it was all business."
Reyes, hitting righthanded against the knuckleballer, slapped the second pitch directly back to Dickey, who easily flipped to first base for the out. They didn't face each other again, thanks to a third-inning rain delay that afforded Reyes an early exit. Any emotional connection to the Mets, however, felt as if it had been washed away some time ago.
"For now, I don't miss anything," said Reyes, who signed a six-year, $106-million deal with the Marlins in December, "because I'm part of a new organization."
That was the basic theme for Reyes, who apparently has had no problem turning the page. He remains in contact with David Wright but has a new BFF in Hanley Ramirez. Reyes still has his home on Long Island but plans to go condo shopping next week in downtown Miami.
And did we mention he's very, very happy on the Marlins?
"Before I signed here, I saw what they're trying to do," Reyes said. "That's why I decide to come here to Miami, because of the opportunity to win. Because in my ninth year in the big leagues, I don't win anything yet.
As for the Mets, there also was a sense of letting go. Dickey talked about "gathering information" on Reyes for the regular season and how "he's just another baseball player" between the lines. Off the field, however, his personality will be missed.
"He's a little bit different because he meant so much to everyone in the clubhouse," Dickey said. "We might not be able to replace his exuberance with one person."
Jason Bay noted how small Reyes' head looks now that the dreadlocks have been sheared off and replaced with a tightly cropped, chestnut-dyed 'do. Bay joked with Reyes at second base after his double, but when asked about the impact of his departure, the leftfielder expressed the importance of moving on.
"Guys change teams all the time," said Bay, who is on his third team since 2008. "You do what you have to do and have other guys pick it up. There's not one guy in this clubhouse that's whining that he's gone."
Maybe not, but Reyes is sympathetic toward Wright, who remains mired in a rebuilding process that is nowhere near completion. Reyes said he spoke to Wright a week ago, checking on his abdominal strain.
When asked what Wright thinks about his own future, Reyes said, "I don't know. I know he's mad. But one thing I know is that he wants to play baseball no matter what it's going to be. But I think he wants to be healthy first, and then play baseball, and do what he does best: play the game the right way and play hard."
Reyes was in the starting lineup Thursday, but his replacement, Ruben Tejada, was in Port St. Lucie recovering from a groin strain. That was not lost on Reyes, who knows of the Mets' rash of injuries.
"I feel good, healthy," Reyes said. "That's my concern. If I'm healthy, I know I'm going to be fine."