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Mets' Reyes cleared to return to spring training

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes arrives at

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes arrives at the Tradition Field sports complex for the start of spring training. (February 18, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Omar Minaya's smile said it all. For a franchise ripped apart by misfortune the past few years, to hear Tuesday that Jose Reyes had been cleared to immediately rejoin the Mets in Florida was an indescribable relief.

"It's a good day," Minaya said.

The Mets got word about an hour before the game against the Braves that Reyes' thyroid levels had returned to normal, and Minaya could barely contain himself as he spoke to reporters on the dugout bench. What that means for Opening Day remains unclear, however.

Earlier this month, Jerry Manuel said Reyes would need roughly 10 spring games to get up to speed, and with only 11 left, there may not be enough time. Reyes, who has been shut down since March 4, has played only in an intrasquad game and will require a few days of workouts before returning to the lineup.

Manuel doubted that would happen before next week. When Minaya was asked about Opening Day, the general manager hedged a bit but did not rule it out.

"I don't want to say no," he said. "Let's see when he gets here. Let's see how things go, but we're not going to say that he's not going to be ready. The good thing is that he came to camp in excellent shape. As far as Opening Day, we don't know. We're going to see how he comes along."

Even if the Mets have to begin the season with Alex Cora at shortstop, Minaya is optimistic Reyes can avoid the DL and at least be ready to play the first week.

When Reyes was diagnosed with a hyperactive thyroid, the Mets said it would sideline him two to eight weeks. That was March 11, so this case appears to be one of the few Mets health situations that may have the best possible outcome.

"To be honest, the way things have gone for us, you figured June," Jeff Francoeur said. "But to hear that is a good thing. Maybe some good luck will happen and good fortune moving forward."

Reyes was stunned to be ordered back to New York March 5 for more tests and the Mets, already without Carlos Beltran until May, were thrown into a panic. But they later were assured that Reyes' condition was only temporary and the thyroid will return to normal without medication. So the chance of a recurrence is unlikely.

"There's no doubt about that," Minaya said. "Our doctors are fully confident and that's why they cleared him."

Reyes was limited to almost zero physical exertion since the diagnosis because elevated thyroid levels, by increasing his metabolism, could cause an irregular heartbeat. Because of inactivity, and the fact Reyes is coming off hamstring tendon surgery, the Mets must move slowly in getting him back up to speed.

With Reyes' history of leg injuries, there's a risk if he's pushed too quickly.

"This is a kind of foreign ground because I don't ever recollect a player not being able to do any physical activity and then go right into spring training," Manuel said. "So we'll have to rely on our training staff to give us a barometer as to where he is. I couldn't give you a timetable, but it sure is good to have him back, no doubt about that."

Manuel said late Tuesday he likely will abandon the plan of batting Reyes third.

"I'll have to see where we are, maybe three or four days before the start," Manuel said. "If I tried to answer that now, I would probably see him getting a sense of comfort back in the leadoff spot. Now you know me, I'll change."

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