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Could new shoes have caused Reyes' problems?

5) Jose Reyes is ready to roll It's

5) Jose Reyes is ready to roll

It's hard to believe that Reyes is heading into his eighth season in the majors. For the 26-year-old shortstop, 2009 was a lost season, undone by calf and hamstring injuries. But Reyes has proclaimed that he will be 100 percent healthy for spring training. The Mets had better hope he's right.

His ability to get on base and make life miserable for opposing pitchers -- and to drive in runs from the leadoff spot -- makes him perhaps the Mets' most indispensable everyday player. With Jason Bay, David Wright and eventually Carlos Beltran behind him, Reyes must be the same table-setting threat who scored more than 110 runs each year from 2006-08.

As the Mets discuss how to fix Jose Reyes' hamstring problems, next on the agenda is how to prevent them from happening again. That will involve a closer examination of what went wrong for him this season.

Reyes himself has no idea when or how the right hamstring tendon began to fray, which is what first produced the discomfort behind his knee in mid-May. The mystery is why Reyes had pain again after four consecutive years without a serious hamstring problem.

The key to that success was a strict maintenance program for his hamstrings that involved rigorous stretching exercises, a daily ritual for Reyes since the crippling run of hamstring strains earlier in his career.

That four-year period of uninhibited play had suggested that the chronic issues could be behind him. But one specialist consulted about these types of cases explained that the chance of hamstring injuries recurring is "close to 50 percent," a strong indication that the risk would always be there for Reyes.

Also worth noting is that Reyes altered his routine this season, switching from Nike to an endorsement deal with Under Armour. Reyes was supposed to be the highest-profile baseball player to sign with the sports apparel company, a relative newcomer to the footwear market. The shortstop was the centerpiece of the company's advertising kicking off the 2009 season.

But Under Armour outfitted Reyes with a standard model of its new baseball cleat in spring training and didn't work to produce a custom-fit version until after he had been placed on the disabled list with what then was described as right calf tendinitis.

By then, Reyes was taking cortisone shots to combat the pain behind his right knee. Just when he was on the verge of returning from the DL, Reyes snapped the frayed tendon June 3 during a rehab game in Port St. Lucie.

Up to that point, Reyes could not point to one specific incident that might have injured him. It was gradual and worsened over six weeks.

That could have been caused by a new misalignment of the leg, the specialist noted, starting with the foot and instability through the ankle area. For someone with a long history of hamstring problems, it seems that a custom shoe should have been mandatory.

Reyes did not attend yesterday's game and the Mets were unsure if he will be at today's season finale. But one of his representatives, Chris Leible, said Reyes is very happy with Under Armour and that changing footwear was never under consideration.

The Mets insist that Reyes "absolutely" will be ready in time for spring training, but the definition of "ready" is open to interpretation. As good as Reyes looked during his running sessions this past week, the likely reason for the partial tear of the hamstring muscle was that his mechanics had changed, putting an unbearable strain on the weakest point.

Reyes had stayed healthy for those years because he had settled into a mechanically safe, sound running style, something that took years to discover and maintain. But now that Reyes has compensated for the torn tendon and is likely headed for surgery, he will need to work on those mechanics again.

Without that critical component, Reyes could be in serious jeopardy for 2010.


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