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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

With Jose Reyes back, are Mets stranding Wilmer Flores?

Wilmer Flores started at second base for the

Wilmer Flores started at second base for the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday night, July 5, 2016. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Jose Reyes is back with the Mets. That is not a surprise. Neither was the extended standing ovation he received before his first at-bat. Reyes went 0-for-4 in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Marlins at Citi Field on Tuesday night.

The societal repercussions of fans cheering for a player who was suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy were well-covered when Yankees fans did the same for Aroldis Chapman before his first appearance in the Bronx.

Reyes’ story is a little different because he was a beloved Met. He has history in Flushing, and by and large Mets fans at the ballpark Tuesday night must have decided to honor that history. You can agree or disagree with their choice, but we have been here before, and not that long ago.

There are other repercussions to Reyes’ return that have nothing to do with alleged crime and baseball punishment. There is the on-field side of things, and that is the reason a gaggle of reporters enveloped the locker of Wilmer Flores before the game.

What did Flores do? Nothing except lose his job to Reyes, the same way Flores lost his shortstop job to Asdrubal Cabrera in the offseason.

Reyes, who hit .176 in 11 minor-league games, started at third base instead of Flores, who has led the Mets in RBIs since taking over for the injured David Wright and went 6-for-6 two games ago.

Flores wasn’t benched. He started at second and went 0-for-4 as the cleanup batter as Neil Walker got the night off. Flores is expected to play first base Wednesday against a lefthanded pitcher.

But after replacing Wright and doing it well — .315 with four home runs and 17 RBIs since June 3 going into Tuesday night — Flores is back in the position of having to check the lineup card every day. He also got an oddly lukewarm endorsement from manager Terry Collins.

“He had been just OK,” Collins said. “The 6-for-6 really got him going, and we’re all excited about it. But we’ve got another piece to the puzzle here. And this piece should help us. As you know, you can only play nine guys a night.”

Flores, who once famously cried on the field when he thought the Mets had traded him to Milwaukee, showed another emotion Tuesday night. Annoyance. From a mild-mannered guy like Flores, it felt like an eruption.

When a reporter tried to ask Flores if Collins had spoken to him once it became official that Reyes was being called up, Flores cut off the question and said, “No.”

Apparently, Collins didn’t think it was necessary.

“What kind of conversation are you going to have that we haven’t already had — that I had at the beginning of the season?” Collins said. “He knew it was coming. He was certainly prepared for it.”

Yes, Flores has known for days that Reyes was coming. Even though Reyes didn’t show much in the minors, Collins has wanted to install the 33-year-old as his speedy leadoff man. Some days it seems as if it’s all Collins could talk about, as if this Reyes is still the batting champ of 2011 and the Mets are going to run their way to the NL East crown.

That the Mets went into Tuesday night on a five-game winning streak meant Reyes wouldn’t face any pressure to be an offensive savior. Good thing, because he struck out on three pitches, grounded to first, popped to second and grounded weakly to short.

“He’s home,” Collins said before the game.

So is Flores. But he never left.


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