PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jose Reyes felt like he was thrown into the fire last season, scrambling from the start to make something of a second chance with the team that had given him his first.
He had missed spring training, fallout from his suspension for his arrest for domestic violence. Shortly after his return, the Rockies cut him loose, opening the door for a reunion with the Mets.
By season’s end, Reyes proved to be a catalyst, his play and his presence helping to fill a void on a roster depleted by injuries. The Mets surged to the playoffs. Now, emboldened by his first big league camp since 2015, Reyes is vowing for even more.
“It’s going to be way better, I guarantee you that,” Reyes said on Wednesday. “Way better than last year. Now, I’ve had my work in since Day 1. I’m here in a baseball atmosphere.”
The Mets need Reyes, just as they did last year, to start at third base. David Wright missed his second day of camp on Wednesday to receive a second opinion on an impingement in his shoulder, fallout from inactivity following neck surgery last June.
Manager Terry Collins said he doesn’t know when Wright will return to camp. But that point is moot. Even if the Mets captain bounces back with no more issues with his neck or back, he likely won’t be ready for Opening Day. And given the chronic condition in his back, Wright’s status moving forward remains a question.
With that uncertainty as a backdrop, Reyes’ importance to the Mets has only grown. When the Mets re-signed him last June, the new deal included a league-minimum option for this season. After Reyes hit .267 with eight homers — all while giving the Mets a true leadoff presence that they had been missing — picking up the option became a slam dunk.
Reyes posted a .769 OPS with the Mets, all while transitioning from shortstop to third base. Though he played only 60 games, it was his highest season total since 2013. The 33-year-old insists he’s capable of even more.
“Last year, I was thrown into the fire right in the middle of the season when everybody was ready, basically,” Reyes said. “And felt like I did a very good job.”
Indeed, Reyes spent spring training at home on Long Island. He kept himself in shape, though he had to work through limitations.
“Last year, I was working out with my friends and they don’t even play baseball, you know? It’s different,” Reyes said. “I was playing catch with one of my friends and he doesn’t even play baseball. This is different. As a baseball player, you want to be in spring training. You want to be around players. I’m ready, I’m ready to go.”
Reyes will play shortstop during the World Baseball Classic but will focus primarily on third base. He will also take fly balls in center as a way to increase his versatility.
But whatever the challenge, Reyes said he’s game, especially considering where he stood not too long ago.
“At one point, I mean, sitting at my house when Colorado basically let me go, I thought for one moment ‘maybe this is it for me.’ That went through my head,” Reyes said. “And when the Mets called, my energy level went up.”