SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - One of the Mets' greatest fears materialized Wednesday at Hiram Bithorn Stadium when Jose Reyes was scratched from the lineup for the series finale against the Marlins with what the team initially described as a stiff lower back.
That diagnosis changed somewhat after the Mets' 6-5 victory, when Reyes said that his back was fine, and the problem was more in the right oblique area, which is often a red flag.
"I wanted to play, but you have to be careful with this," Reyes said. When asked if he would be available for Thursday's series opener in Washington, which was only 18 hours later, Reyes was unsure.
"Right now, I don't want to say yes," Reyes said. "Let's see what happens tomorrow."
Dropping the first two games to the Marlins didn't seem like such a big deal anymore when compared to the possibility of losing Reyes for an extended period - and there's hardly a guarantee that he will be back sooner rather than later with this injury.
"I think it was more the [artificial] surface than anything else," Jerry Manuel said. "We want to be careful with him and have him for the weekend series."
Given Reyes' long history of leg issues, any injury is a reason for concern, and Manuel did not want to take any chances on the artificial surface. As it turned out, the Mets didn't need him, and they endured both a 70-minute rain delay and a poor outing by Mike Pelfrey to avoid the sweep.
David Wright had a pair of doubles with two RBIs and the Mets took advantage of three errors to snap a four-game losing streak on the road. Jesus Feliciano, making his leadoff debut in place of Reyes, had a pair of hits and scored the first run. Josh Thole, the day after his tying single in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss, broke a 4-4 tie with his pinch-hit, bases-loaded single in the sixth.
Aside from the overnight flight to Washington, the only downside for the weary Mets was the lackluster performance by Pelfrey. He allowed a career-high 12 hits and four runs in 42/3 innings, his shortest outing since he went four innings on May 1.
After the delay, the Mets didn't waste any time attacking Chris Volstad for a 3-0 lead in the first. Feliciano started in place of fellow Puerto Rican Angel Pagan, who was still uncomfortable batting from the left side, and he fired up his home crowd with a double before Wright's two-run double.
Alex Cora rewarded Manuel for giving him a start in Puerto Rico with a double to lead off the second and Feliciano struck again with a run-scoring single to put the Mets up, 4-2. But Florida got to Pelfrey again in the fifth to tie the score at 4 on Jorge Cantu's RBI double and a run-scoring single by Dan Uggla, whose base hit beat the Mets in Tuesday's walk-off win.
Elmer Dessens (2-1) recorded one out but got the win and Francisco Rodriguez had a four-out save, his 18th.
Manuel's decision to scratch Reyes didn't come until roughly an hour before the game's scheduled first pitch. Omar Minaya checked with Reyes after batting practice and conferred with Manuel about the plan to sit him.
"You have to look at the long range," Minaya said. "Jose didn't want to come out of the lineup. It was just the right thing to do, especially under these conditions."
Reyes did not accept the decision peacefully and appeared to be angry with trainer Ray Ramirez when he left the field for the second and last time during batting practice.
It was unclear how Reyes hurt himself. When Reyes left the field for the first time, apparently clutching his side, he returned shortly afterward wearing a T-shirt and uniform pants.
Reyes took a few practice tosses - while being watched closely by Ramirez - and abruptly headed for the clubhouse again, appearing agitated. Reyes yelled something as he was trailed closely by Ramirez and Manuel.