Ruben Tejada holding his own as Jose Reyes' replacement

New York Mets' Ruben Tejada (11) returns to New York Mets' Ruben Tejada (11) returns to the dugout past David Wright (5). (Aug 1, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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The spotlight will once again be on Jose Reyes starting Tuesday night when he makes his second return to Citi Field in a Marlins uniform.

Ruben Tejada, the man who replaced Reyes at shortstop for the Mets, will happily stay out of the media glare.

But Tejada is having arguably just as good a season as Reyes, who carries a 24-game hitting streak into Tuesday night's series opener and has moved into the No. 3 hole for the disappointing Marlins.

Reyes is batting .288 with seven home runs, 30 RBIs and a .351 on-base percentage with 13 errors.

Tejada, who has settled in as the Mets' leadoff hitter, has a modest (though career-high) 11-game hitting streak of his own. He is batting .323 with one home run, 18 RBIs and a .368 OBP with eight errors.

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"I told you guys when I came here, I don't try to compare with him or something like that," Tejada said. "He's a different guy, a different game. I know my game."

Where Tejada can't compare with Reyes is in stolen bases (27-1) and games (108-64). Tejada missed nearly six weeks in May and June with a strained groin muscle.

Tejada also can't touch Reyes in the salary department. He is making $491,000 this season. Reyes is making $10 million in a backloaded, six-year, $106-million contract that jumps to $22 million per season in 2015.

But who is more valuable? So far this season, Reyes has a WAR (wins above replacement level) of 1.7, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Tejada's is 1.8.

Reyes is 29 years old. Tejada is 22. So it seems as if, for now at least, the Mets have at least broken even on this transaction.

Manager Terry Collins said he would have played Tejada at second base this season had the Mets re-signed Reyes. But he is thrilled with the job Tejada has done.

"We knew defensively he was going to be fine," Collins said. "We certainly didn't expect what he's done offensively -- even though he was hurt for a while -- but playing every day, getting on base and leading off. I mean, I certainly had no expectations at the beginning of the season that he'd be a leadoff hitter for us. He's done a tremendous job. He'll have a tough at-bat where somebody looks like maybe they overmatch him. And the next time up, he's going to put a good swing on it."

Tejada went 19-for-50 (.380) on the Mets' just-completed 11-game road trip and is batting .335 since returning from the DL. He hit his first home run since Sept. 5, 2010, on Wednesday in San Francisco. His 16 doubles are already a career high.

"What I've seen this year is what I heard when I first got to this organization -- that his maturity is way beyond his years," Collins said. "We're seeing that now more than I did last year because he's in the lineup every day. You see the fast adjustments that he makes on a daily basis."

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Collins said he would like Tejada to work on two things: becoming a base stealer and showing up early to next year's spring training. Collins was miffed when Tejada showed up on time, but not early, this February. "I would assume he'll be there a little earlier," Collins said.

Tejada said he definitely would be. See? He might not be as fast as Reyes, but he is a fast learner.

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