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Reyes returns to Citi Field for first time

Jose Reyes of the Miami Marlins looks on

Jose Reyes of the Miami Marlins looks on from the dugout during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. (March 13, 2012) Credit: Getty

In strange garb, Jose Reyes will return to the Mets' ballyard Tuesday night. Not what his former teammates would call a turncoat, Reyes nevertheless will be in the other dugout now -- a member of the Miami Marlins -- a reminder that professional sports has its revolving-door aspect, and everyone just has to deal with it.

Should fans feel forsaken that Reyes left his Flushing home for a six-year, $106-million free-agent deal? Is Tuesday night's planned pregame video tribute to Reyes, who hit .292, stole 370 bases and sold plenty of tickets during his nine Mets seasons, appropriate?

"Jose was a big part of this organization for quite some time," longtime pal and infield compatriot David Wright said Monday, "so obviously it stung [fans], just like it stung me, when he signed with Miami. But I think, all in all, he should receive a positive response for what he meant to this franchise for so long.

"Whatever positivity comes from his return, it's well-deserved, because he was one of the most dynamic, one of the best players in baseball over that time. It's going to be a little odd seeing him in a different uniform . . . but I'm eager to see what it's going to be like playing against a talent like that."

Part of the awkward equation regarding Reyes' return has to do with his final Mets appearance, a first-inning bunt single followed by a self-benching to preserve his 2011 National League batting title. "From the crowd point of view," R.A. Dickey said, "I imagine a very mixed response" tonight.

"A lot of people will appreciate his contributions to this organization for such a long time," Dickey said, "and then a lot of people are left with the sour taste in their mouth of him leaving. So I think he'll get cheers and boos. In the clubhouse, he was a good teammate. I consider Jose Reyes my friend."

So Wednesday night, when it is Dickey's turn to pitch and Reyes "steps in the box," Dickey said, "it's not that he ceases being my friend. He's just my friend that I want to get out very badly."

What the Mets acknowledge, while professing a full understanding of what Jason Bay called "the nature of the game" -- trades and taking advantage of free agency -- is the peculiar sense of seeing Reyes on the other side after all this time.

"It's tough because Jose was a friend to everybody in here," Bay said. "I mean -- with David, forever -- you develop those personal relationships . . ."

Still, everybody moves on, and Reyes' understudy, Ruben Tejada, has impressed manager Terry Collins with "the fact that he's mature enough to know exactly who he is and what he is. You know, he hasn't tried to live up to being Jose Reyes."

(Although it should be noted that Tejada scored the Mets' first run of Monday's doubleheader in Reyes style: He walked, stole second and scored on Mike Baxter's double. And he made a couple of nifty plays at shortstop, too.)

Wright noted that Reyes "called me and let me know about his decision" to sign with Miami. "He was very, very classy and wanted to let me know how much it meant to him, playing together for so long, and I thought that was a real nice move on his part. I consider him one of my closest friends in baseball, and that's no different now.

"Obviously, we're going to try to beat him as badly as possible. Hopefully he doesn't get any hits against us. But as soon as he leaves here, you know, you always kind of check the boxscore and hope he does well."

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Reyes "deserves a warm reception from our fans" Tuesday night. And Dickey guessed that the "novelty" of the crowd needing to express any feelings against Reyes will fade quickly. While, for the players, business goes on.

Dickey, who often wore a Reyes T-shirt under his uniform last season, said he has switched to a Wright shirt to show "support for a teammate." And Bay has settled into Reyes' old locker. Without redecorating it.

New York Sports