PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Shortly before yesterday's game, the last for the Mets at Digital Domain Park this year, Alex Cora frantically hunted for his luggage among the rows of identical black rolling bags outside the clubhouse. Once Cora found the tag bearing his name and the No. 13, he pulled out a patterned shirt and hustled back inside.
"All this starting shortstop stuff has got me a little crazy," Cora said, smiling.
He's not the only one. As part of the preparation for the three-hour trip across the state, where they will play games in St. Petersburg and Sarasota before finally heading north, the Mets handled some last bit of housekeeping.
That involved Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel telling Jose Reyes he will be left behind and will begin the season on the disabled list. Reyes is eligible to return for the fifth game a week from Saturday against the Nationals at Citi Field, but Minaya refused to say when the team plans to call him up. Or exactly why Reyes was placed on the DL in the first place.
"We feel it's safer just to be able to have him stay here and be ready to go whenever the time is," Minaya said.
Safer for whom? Reyes has looked perfectly fine every step of the way since he returned March 24 from his sofa seclusion in New York. He's played in two minor-league games, fielded his position and run the bases at full speed in every possible scenario.
The one thing Reyes has not done is play in a game against major-league competition, but that can't happen now, either. Now he will be limited to extended spring games, and the additional time appears to be nothing more than an opportunity for the Mets to say they took every precaution with him.
"If you bring him back too early, there's going to be an injury risk," Minaya said. "Second of all, he has to perform. I don't think right now it would be fair to put him out there and expect him to perform without really having a full spring training."
Reyes won't get that, either, but he sounded comfortable with the team's decision. Ever since the news about his hyperactive thyroid, Reyes is happy just to be on the field again, and he tried to take a big-picture view Thursday as well.
"Of course I have to be disappointed," Reyes said. "I want to play Opening Day. There's no doubt about it. But we have to make the right decision here. We don't want to go too crazy. If it means a couple games, that's no big deal because there is 162 games in the season."
At least now the frustration could be nearing an end for Reyes, whose return from hamstring surgery was complicated by a visit from the FBI regarding the investigation of a doctor linked to HGH, followed by the thyroid issue. Of all the questions that have plagued the Mets during the past six weeks, Reyes' drama has been at the center of it.
"It's crazy," Reyes said. "So many things happened to me. I can't imagine that. But I'm still positive in my mind."
"I like our team," Minaya said. "I think we have a good team. I think that the group as a unit feels good about itself. I think something inside these guys is going to say, 'Hey, let's bind together. Let's have a good year. I think we can prove some people wrong."