In recent days, the Mets’ clubhouse has been little more than a well-appointed infirmary. For manager Terry Collins, the daily challenge has been cobbling together nine able-bodied players to field a team.
Yet when a healthy Jose Reyes arrived at Citi Field on Saturday afternoon, he did not see his name in the starting lineup. There’s a chance he won’t see it again until Tuesday.
After coming off the bench to go 0-for-1 with a walk in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Nationals, Reyes is 6-for-63 (.095). It is the worst start of his 15-year major-league career.
Reyes is 6-for-13 (.462) with two homers against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez. But still he did not start.
“We all think he’s going to come out of it, but we thought we’d give him a break mentally,” said manager Terry Collins, who started T.J. Rivera at third base.
To this point, nothing has worked. Reyes, 33, began the year in the leadoff spot. The former batting champion was moved down to seventh, a compromise with the manager to keep him in the lineup in the hope he’d bust out. It hasn’t happened.
“It’s doesn’t matter if it’s early or not,” said Reyes, barely hiding his frustration. “We know it’s early. But honestly, you’ve got to be better than this. Because we aren’t playing too good right now. So I feel like I have to contribute more.”
Collins said he hoped Reyes would use the time off to step away from the extra work he’s done in the batting cage to hit his way out of the slump. For his part, Reyes said his only recourse is to keep working in hopes of turning the tide.
Even if the mental health break doesn’t work, it appears Reyes’ spot on the roster is not in danger, at least in the short term. The Mets have played only 18 games, far too early to begin serious discussions about moving on. And even if Reyes’ struggles continue, Mets officials are far more likely to keep him on the roster as a utilityman rather than simply cut him loose.
The Mets are paying Reyes the minimum salary this season. While that would make it easy for them to cut him loose, it also is motivation to keep him. He remains a switch hitter with some speed who is capable of playing shortstop — all for a reasonable price tag.
Top prospect Amed Rosario had a .362/.397/.397 slash line in his first 15 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. The shortstop also has played third base, fueling speculation that the Mets could summon him to fill out a depleted roster.
Sources said, however, that there are no immediate plans to promote Rosario (or fellow prospect Dominic Smith), with club officials hesitant to rush the young duo before they’re ready. Promoting either now also could cost the Mets down the line in terms of allowing each to reach early arbitration and free agency.
So Reyes likely will have some time to straighten out his swing, even if he’s ultimately replaced as the starter at third base. There is plenty to fix. He has 16 strikeouts, one behind Curtis Granderson’s team-leading 17. Reyes is striking out in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances (22.8 percent), well above his career rate (10.8 percent). The whiffs deprive him of the chance to use his speed to leg out hits.
“The only thing I don’t like is that I’m striking out too much,” he said. “I don’t strike out that much.’’
Reyes is 0-for-14 batting from the right side with four walks. That’s one more walk than he has from the left side in 49 at-bats.
Said Collins: “Right now when you’re around him, you can see he’s really struggling mentally with what his approach is.”