PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - As soon as the Mets' lineup card disappeared Thursday from the clubhouse wall, everyone's immediate reaction was to fear the worst, and for good reason.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the team's most important players had been listed on that sheet of paper, from top to bottom, and any change to it had to mean that one of those crucial pieces was unable to take the field.
And so the whispers began. Who was it? Was he injured? How seriously? When did it happen? Is anyone limping?
That sort of unease is unavoidable around the Mets these days. From the front office to the players to the media and down to the fan base itself. If anyone coughs or sneezes, the next question certain to be asked is about how long he will be on the disabled list. And then no one trusts the answer.
An overreaction? Hardly. This is a team whose front-office members and training staff wear jackets with the words "Prevention and Recovery" embroidered on their chests. The same shield - it looks like a modern-day coat of arms - is painted on the walls of the clubhouse and weight room.
It's not just a catchy slogan. It's supposed to be a lifestyle, a reminder to this injury-scarred team that it must always be on guard to make sure that last season is not repeated. What this mind-set has done, however, is create the kind of anxiety that follows an outbreak of some new exotic virus during flu season.
"Do I get worried about injuries?" Omar Minaya said. "I always try to be positive. I'm a guy that always looks at the glass as being half full. Injuries are things that you don't like to think about. And if you get a call from the trainer, you're always a little apprehensive. I'm thinking, please give me good news, not bad news."
Which is why everyone freaked out Thursday when the Mets announced that Jose Reyes had been scratched from the lineup for a doctor's appointment. All it took was two words - "Reyes'' and "doctor'' - for the panic to set in.
There are a number of reasons for that. Reyes has a long history of medical issues, played only 36 games last season because of a torn hamstring tendon and is coming back from October surgery to clean up the scar tissue from that ripped tendon.
In this case, however, the fears turned out to be unfounded. Reyes had an irregular test during his team-mandated physical last month and needed more blood work to rule out any problems. He was cleared later in the afternoon and was back at Tradition Field taking indoor batting practice by 3 p.m. Reyes was listed in the lineup for today's game against the Marlins, and Jerry Manuel behaved as if nothing had happened.
"I'm anxious to see him play," Manuel said after yesterday's 17-11 blowout of the Cardinals. "He'll be here tomorrow, batting third, and we'll go from there."
Though the Mets could exhale about Reyes, $36-million closer Francisco Rodriguez has not been allowed in the clubhouse since Monday, when a doctor declared his raging case of pink eye too contagious for him to be around his teammates. And K-Rod's supposed setup man, Kelvim Escobar, has not thrown a pitch since showing up with a sore shoulder.
The good news? There is no disabled list now. Just the fear of being on it come Opening Day.