New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes throws the ball during...

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes throws the ball during the minor league spring training baseball game in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (March 30, 2010) Credit: AP

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Jose Reyes did all he could to convince the Mets he would be ready to play on Opening Day, even sliding headfirst into second base in a minor-league exhibition game Wednesday after he was told not to slide at all.

"No, he didn't!" manager Jerry Manuel exclaimed when told Reyes had gone headfirst in only his second day of game action since he returned from nearly three weeks of inactivity because of elevated thyroid levels.

Yes, he did. But he won't on Opening Day.

Reyes will begin the season on the disabled list, Manuel confirmed last night as he left an organizational meeting at the team's minor-league complex.

The tight-lipped Manuel wouldn't discuss the decision, or any others the Mets might have made. But the team has decided to err on the side of caution and not rush Reyes into the lineup for Monday's season opener at Citi Field against the Marlins.

Alex Cora will man shortstop for at least the first four games of the season. The earliest the Mets would let Reyes return is the first weekend of the regular season.

Reyes, who hasn't played in a big-league game since May 20, only returned to action on Tuesday. Wednesday, he played in his second minor-league exhibition game, going 1-for-5 and playing three innings in the field against Florida's Triple-A team.

He tried to sneak onto the field for a fourth inning of defense but was called back to the bench.

Of sliding, Reyes said: "Me and [trainer] Ray Ramirez, we talked about that this morning. He said, 'Don't think to slide on the bases.' I said, 'Let's see what happens, because I don't slide in a long time.' "

Reyes certainly looks fit, and he successfully has completed every drill. But the Mets think he just hasn't had enough time to get in baseball shape and needs more at-bats in the controlled environment of extended spring training.

"My legs are ready," Reyes said before the decision was revealed. "I'm not that bad swinging the bat, either. The more swings you take in BP, the more comfortable you're going to feel. I'm starting to feel more comfortable now."

The Mets are set to leave Port St. Lucie Friday and play a pair of games on Florida's West Coast Friday night and Saturday before heading to New York. Reyes will remain in Port St. Lucie and continue to work out the kinks before he's allowed to go full tilt in a big-league game.

Reyes has been a good soldier since his return, not publicly lobbying to make the Opening Day roster.

"There's no doubt I would like to be with the team, but they have the decision," he said. "I don't want to say anything because I don't know anything."

Cora, who left Tuesday's spring-training game after getting hit by a pitch on the right hip, is expected to return to the lineup Thursday. Reyes' absence temporarily could open a roster spot for rookie Ruben Tejada or non-roster player Russ Adams.

The decision on Reyes was first reported by

With David Lennon

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