Rieber: Are Mets making error hanging on to Reyes?

Jose Reyes gestures towards the dugout after hitting

Jose Reyes gestures towards the dugout after hitting an RBI single against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. (July 24, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

Anthony Rieber

Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998

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Jose Reyes made a costly error on a routine ground ball Sunday in Philadelphia that manager Jerry Manuel volunteered was due to Reyes being "lax" in his "pre-pitch preparation."

Reyes would be spoken to, Manuel said, about the need to be ready before each and every pitch, and the conversation took place just before last night's series opener against the Rockies at Citi Field.

Reyes initially said the talking-to wasn't necessary, that he wasn't being lax. Then he said something he probably shouldn't have.

"Sometimes it's hard to get ready for every pitch because how many pitches [does] the pitcher throw to home plate?" he said. "A hundred and something? It's hard to get ready on every pitch. I try to do my best."

We'll call that one an E-6, too.

Since the Mets were off Monday, Tuesday was the first time since Sunday's game that Manuel would have the chance to chat with Reyes, who made three errors on the team's 2-4 trip through Atlanta and Philadelphia.

Apparently, Manuel felt talk was enough. There was no extra fielding practice for Reyes. No extra video sessions. Just a gentle reminder from Manuel, who Reyes said is "like my second father."

Reyes said infielder coach Chip Hale spoke with him during Sunday's game, right after he booted a Placido Polanco grounder on the backhand in the Phillies' five-run third inning. Two of the runs were unearned. The Mets lost, 6-5.

"Chip Hale always talks to me during the game," Reyes said. "Sometimes when I get a little lazy he says, 'Pick it up a little bit. Get ready sooner.' "

But, Reyes said, that error - and the two he made in Atlanta - weren't due to a lack of "pre-pitch preparation."

"That ball that I missed there - I was there," Reyes said. "I got to the ball. The ball just came out of my glove. That's going to happen sometimes. I don't know what they're talking about."

Is Reyes really, to use his word, "lazy"? It's a common complaint among the "break up the core" crowd of Mets fans who would like the 27-year-old shipped outta here.

The mind's-eye picture of Reyes at his best: flying around the bases, legging out a triple, sliding headfirst into third base, popping up and clapping his hands with the enthusiasm of a teenager.

At his worst: botching an easy grounder. Or being absent for months because of an injury the Mets initially misdiagnose as a one- or two-day thing.

(Reyes admitted last night, "I still feel it a little bit" when asked about the oblique injury that sidelined him for 11 games in late June/early July. The Mets first called that a sore lower back.)

What is Reyes? The Mets have to decide in a few months; they hold an $11-million contract option on him after this season. After driving in the only run in last night's 1-0 win with a seventh-inning sacrifice fly off Ubaldo Jimenez, Reyes is batting .278 with seven HRs, 41 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and 12 errors in 97 games.

The Mets will probably look to sign him to an extension that lowers that $11 million to something more palatable for their 2011 budget. In exchange, Reyes will get three or four more years. Probably.

"I'd love to finish my career here," he said. "This is the only team I've played for so far. They gave me the opportunity to be here in the big leagues. I appreciate that from them. But this is baseball. You never know what's going to happen."

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