PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla.
Jose Reyes’ return to the Mets, as long a shot as there was in baseball, came together last season through a regrettable confluence of events that only his former team was willing to accept. Now Reyes is at spring training and on the precipice of another meaningful reunion, but one that also has the odds stacked against it.
The sight of Reyes again playing side-by-side with David Wright seemed like a fantasy only a year ago, for a multitude of reasons. And even though they are clubhouse neighbors at Tradition Field, there are hurdles to clear before the two homegrown Mets can share the field again.
At 33, Reyes has never looked more fit, more ready for a season. The uncertainty lies with Wright, 34, whose laborious rehab from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck has put Opening Day in jeopardy — and, along with his spinal stenosis, still must be considered career-threatening.
As Reyes spent Friday morning spraying the outfield with line drives, Wright was away on his own program, but the idea of the two reuniting feels so much closer now.
“I can’t wait for that to happen,” Reyes said Friday. “I never imagined that I was going to be in this situation again. To be here, play again with the New York Mets, and be here with D. Wright. He’s my big brother, so we got a lot of love for each other. To be here in the same locker room with him, it’s like I can’t still believe it.”
The Mets have assembled what they believe to be a World Series-caliber team, and the sentimentality of a Reyes-Wright tandem on the left side of the infield would be a nostalgic bonus to those who mourned Reyes’ departure in 2011.
If not for Wright’s season-ending surgery, there probably was zero chance that Reyes would have been welcomed back to Flushing last season. But after Reyes served a 52-game suspension stemming from domestic-violence allegations and promised to learn from his terrible mistake, Wright’s vacancy created the opportunity.
The Mets were like family to Reyes, who still calls Long Island home. And for Wright, who was reduced to being a spectator during Reyes’ comeback, this is an experience none of them could have anticipated.
“It’s like a brother relationship,” Wright said. “It’s pretty special to come full circle like this and hopefully get a chance to take the field with him again.”
There is a window here, but it hardly is guaranteed. Wright still has not thrown since his June surgery, though he plans to play catch tomorrow.
Reyes’ primary job description on this Mets team, as with last year’s group, is to be Wright’s replacement at third base. Reyes is the insurance policy for any lingering problems with the captain, along with backing up at shortstop, second base and possibly the outfield.
To us, however, the Mets are far better off if Reyes’ spikes never leave the infield dirt. He’s too important there, and given the Mets’ surplus of outfielders, dispatching him to sprint after fly balls seems excessive.
Reyes should have plenty of work in the infield, a crew that Terry Collins described as “bad back, bad back, bad knee. And a bad back at first, so we’ve got to keep them healthy.”
Reyes, who has a history of leg issues himself, could be in the best shape of anyone.
A year ago at this time, he was working out at a Garden City facility with friends he said don’t even play baseball. “It’s going to be a huge difference for me,” Reyes said, “because I’m able to be at spring training since the first day.”
As for centerfield, Reyes already has consulted Gold Glover Juan Lagares, who told him to be “ready to run.” To which Reyes replied: “Well, I’m healthy. So I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
In other words, Reyes is happy to do anything for the Mets. But he does have one preference, which is to have Wright beside him again. He’s certainly not alone in that regard.