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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Agent, GM already spinning Reyes' injury

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets

Jose Reyes #7 of the New York Mets reacts to his seventh inning out against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field. (Aug. 5, 2011) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets and Jose Reyes officially began negotiations yesterday on the shortstop's next contract.

Just not with each other.

Reyes' lead agent, Peter Greenberg, held court with a small group of reporters in the hallway outside the main door of the Mets' clubhouse as the players dressed for batting practice.

Reyes' stance has not changed: Contract talks will wait until after this season. "There's really no looking back at this point," Greenberg said. "We're looking forward."

But with Reyes back on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring -- for the second time in a month -- Greenberg must have figured this would be a good time to get out in front on a less-than-positive development for his client.

"He's not Cal Ripken," Greenberg said, "but I think he's been a lot healthier than a lot of people give him credit for. When he's out of the lineup, obviously the team misses him, so it gets blown out of proportion because he is so important to the team. I think if you look over the course of time and compare him to a lot of players, he's as healthy or healthier than a lot of players in the league."

About an hour later, it was Sandy Alderson's turn, and the Mets' GM stood in front of a different wall, next to the team's indoor batting cage, to add some details of his own.

Yes, this hamstring strain is similar to the one Reyes suffered in July, but the trauma is in a different area. So if it's not the same spot, Alderson was asked, does this mean he has a chronic problem with his left hamstring? And would you consider his medical resume troublesome?

"Well, there's some history there," the GM said, "and so I think in some ways you've got to view it as part of the package and evaluate it accordingly. He had a great first half of the season, [then] an injury, and it looked like he was getting back to where he had been. So this is definitely a setback for him and for us."

It's a much bigger blow for Reyes, who a month ago was on track to surpass the seven-year, $142-million deal Carl Crawford signed with the Red Sox in December. And Alderson knows it. There are 49 games left, but the GM already is playing for next season, as he should be.

One Met went as far as to surmise that the club immediately put Reyes on the DL -- rather than wait, as it did last time -- to help its negotiating stance a few months from now. That's probably a stretch, but two DL stints in a season, for the same hamstring, sounds worse than one.

Both sides acknowledged this strain is not as severe as the first one, but Reyes needed 17 days to recover from that one. If he requires close to that for this DL trip, that's more than a month lost to injury.

Said one Met, "He's probably losing $100,000 a day on the DL."

The way Monday's events unfolded, there was a feeling that the scales may be tipping in the Mets' favor. For months, all the talk was about Reyes cashing in on his MVP-type season. Now he is haunted by an injury-prone reputation. "I don't worry about that," Reyes said. "A lot of people pull hamstrings. That can happen to anybody. I know I can put it together for a full season."

During a four-year stretch that ended in 2008, Reyes played no fewer than 153 games, and more than 160 twice. Terry Collins wasn't around then but knows what kind of player he is now, which is why he sided with his shortstop. "There's a lot of people in this league I think are tremendous baseball players," he said. "He's one I'd pay to see."

But what will be the price to keep Reyes? That's the question that was subtly batted around Monday at Citi Field. The first pitches have been thrown.

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