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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Second base a revolving door for Mets

New York Mets' Ruben Tejada pours a handful

New York Mets' Ruben Tejada pours a handful of sunflower seeds in the dugout during the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Washington Nationals. (March 10, 2011) Credit: AP

Shortly after this week's arrival of Ruben Tejada, who would become the Mets' fifth second baseman in the first 42 games of this season, Jose Reyes marveled at the transient nature of his double-play partners since he broke into the majors in 2003.

"It's been like three a year, at least," Reyes said.

Actually, it's never been fewer than four. That season of relative stability was 2006, when Jose Valentin logged 94 games at second, Chris Woodward 39, Kaz Matsui 31 and Anderson Hernandez 13.

On the day Reyes made his debut -- June 10, 2003, in Texas -- he had future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar across from him. Since then, however, the Mets have used 34 second basemen in nine seasons.

It's not shocking that Alomar is the only Cooperstown representative. Somewhat surprising is that the list includes three former All-Stars in addition to Alomar: Luis Castillo, Damion Easley and Reyes, who did it at shortstop.

Of this group, four appeared in only one game: David Newhan, Andy Green, Wilson Valdez and Jose Offerman. Strangely, the forgotten Danny Garcia actually played 61 games (56 starts) during this turbulent stretch, and the Mets were forced to use as many as seven second basemen in three seasons: 2004, 2009 and 2010.

"The guy I played with the longest was Luis Castillo," said Reyes of Castillo's 342-game run. "Other than that, it's always changing. It's been like that my whole career, so it doesn't really matter to me."

Reyes is in familiar territory again; the Mets have shuffled through a number of candidates before settling on Tejada for now. How they got to Tejada -- who wasn't even considered in spring training -- is typical of the bizarre events that keep affecting that position. And as soon as the Mets installed him at second, they did so with a tentative expiration date.

"He's going to play," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We're not going to leave him on the bench. If he doesn't play, then he won't stay here."

Coming into the season, Tejada had played 50 games at second for the Mets, a total that placed him ninth on the aforementioned list between Garcia (61) and Reyes (43). But Alderson gave the Opening Day job to Brad Emaus, who edged Justin Turner and Daniel Murphy largely because of his status as a Rule 5 pick.

But Emaus was returned to the Blue Jays after batting .162 (6-for-37) in 11 games. That gave the job by default to Murphy, his platoon partner, and opened the door for the promotion of Turner.

What began as another platoon, however, quickly evolved into Murphy taking over the everyday job -- before fate intervened again. When Ike Davis collided with David Wright on May 10 at Coors Field, which landed Davis on the disabled list with an ankle/Achilles injury, Murphy had to be moved to first and Turner took over at second.

Finally, Turner found redemption. He felt burned in spring training by his having minor-league options. And second base is his natural spot. "Absolutely," he said. "I've played thousands of games there."

Of course, he lasted 11 games at second, a stay that ended Monday when the Mets said Wright was headed to the DL with a stress fracture in his lower back. Now Turner is starting at third.

As for Tejada, who had been playing shortstop for Triple-A Buffalo, Reyes said, "I've worked with a lot of guys there because nobody ever knows who's going to be our second baseman. But I like Ruben, so it's good."

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