SAN FRANCISCO - At least manager Jerry Manuel didn't even bother to put Jose Reyes in Friday's lineup against the Giants. Still, the manager's efforts to make up for Reyes' absence resulted in a few other head-scratching decisions.
At the very top of that list - literally - was batting Ruben Tejada, the 20-year-old rookie shortstop, in the leadoff spot followed by Jason Bay, not exactly a prototypical No. 2 hitter.
Manuel's strange tinkering with the lineup was primarily due to Reyes' lingering oblique injury. But it also was affected by his pledge to use Jeff Francoeur against lefthanded starters, and Barry Zito was on the mound Friday for the Giants.
Perhaps a more conventional approach with regular leadoff hitter Reyes on the shelf would be to start Angel Pagan, the next best option. But now that Carlos Beltran has been re-installed as the Mets' everyday centerfielder, Manuel insists that he will split time between Pagan and Francoeur, and Friday was Francoeur's turn.
"Well, I've got to make sure Francoeur gets some at-bats," Manuel said. "I think that Angel understands that for the most part. I think it is a little tough right now to get that lineup exactly like you want it with trying to juggle different things here. I had told [Francoeur] that he was going to play and I feel pretty good about him being in there tonight."
The Mets were a little more optimistic Friday about Reyes after he took batting practice from the left side, which had been the biggest issue for him. Reyes looked tentative taking those swings, and just the fact that he was doing it was incongruous with what the Mets were saying about their shortstop only 24 hours earlier.
After Reyes was scratched from Thursday's game, he said he was banned from any activity until the pain in his right side had disappeared. But when asked Friday how he was feeling, Reyes replied, "About the same." Yet he was allowed to hit both indoors and later with his teammates on the field. Why the switch in plans? Apparently the prognosis had changed.
"I think what they wanted him to do was do an activity today of some sort," Manuel said. "Just one activity, and the activity that he wanted to do was swing. He could have taken grounds balls and threw, but he wanted to swing. That was the thing that would determine where he was and what he could do. I think he felt pretty good after that."
Pressed on a possible return date, Manuel suggested Sunday at the earliest, a game that would allow Reyes to bat from the right side against the Giants' Jonathan Sanchez. Of course, that depends on how Reyes feels Saturday after taking batting practice, and he's defied just about every prediction to this point.
"If the thing is barking or whatever," Manuel said, "then I think they'll just back him off."
The Mets did give themselves some infield flexibility by calling up Justin Turner from Triple-A Buffalo and optioning Nick Evans. On Thursday, the team's emergency shortstop was David Wright if anything happened to either Tejada or Alex Cora.
By sitting Pagan, the manager chose to use Tejada and his .299 on-base percentage in the leadoff spot. For Bay, it was his first turn in the second spot since Oct. 3 of last season with the Red Sox. But he was less concerned about his place in the order as compared to his need to produce at the plate.
Bay joked about sitting on his own Bobblehead Day last Sunday - the final game before the All-Star break - and expressed his desire to move on from what he knows was a sub-par first half for a $66-million slugger.
"I can and need to get better, I know that," Bay said. "You can't change what's happened. At the end of the year, I might not have the big numbers I had in the past, but that's not my No. 1 goal right now. Now it really is a day-to-day thing. To go out there every day and try to do something to help the team win."