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Reyes' target is Opening Day, but Mets won't rush him

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, right, watches

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, right, watches a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros from the dugout with assistant trainer Mike Herbst. (March 24, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - After three days of working out on his own, Jose Reyes rejoined his teammates Saturday for some basic spring training drills. Stretching. Running from first to third. Fielding ground balls. Making fun of each other.

Then, as the rest of the Mets went off to play in an exhibition game, Reyes went back to his solitary drills.

After three weeks of inactivity because of an elevated thyroid level, Reyes is trying to get into shape so he can play on Opening Day, otherwise known as April 5.

Part of Reyes' regimen includes sprinting. If he could, he'd sprint all the way into the Opening Day lineup. But the Mets are trying to keep Reyes from going too fast, which is not easy to do.

Will Reyes make it in time for Opening Day? It's possible he won't. It's also possible that's the best thing for him and the team.

"I think the fact today he was out there taking ground balls with the team, he's getting better," general manager Omar Minaya said. "I think the question is how far away is he from Opening Day. I think we'll find out here in the middle of the week where he's at as far as playing games and all that."

The Mets have had more than their share of missteps when it comes to bringing players back from injury. But Reyes is not exactly coming back from an injury. The thyroid scare came after he played in an intrasquad game and before he was going to start appearing in exhibition games. The leg woes that ruined his 2009 were thought to be a thing of the past.

But then Reyes was told to go home and not do anything. No running. No lifting. No eating shellfish. Two of those three things are not what a ballplayer looking to get ready for a season wants to be doing in March.

That's why Reyes, Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel are being very cautious in their public statements. Too often, it seems as if the Mets don't know what's going to happen next. This time it's understandable if they don't know what's going to happen next because this situation is, as Manuel put it, "unique."

Said Minaya: "For me, the most important thing is we want Jose for the whole season. Before he goes out there and he's ready to play in a major-league game, we want to make sure that all the other things are taken care of. The legs are taken care of, the stamina is there, the hitting, the fielding. We have to feel comfortable that there's no soreness.

"We want him with our club, but we're going to be safe. We're not going to rush him just to have him for one game."

If the Mets decide Reyes is not going to make it for the opener, they still could let him play in minor-league exhibition games. Then he could start the season on the disabled list and wouldn't have to miss too many regular-season games.

Or all of this could just work out fine and Reyes could be ready April 5.

Everything working out fine would be a nice change for the Mets, wouldn't it?

"I can't say that he is not going to be ready," Minaya said. "I can tell you that he is progressing every day. Let's see how it plays out."

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