Jose Reyes turns 35 Monday, but he’s not retiring. At least not anytime soon, and certainly not for the Mets’ convenience.
His continued presence, in the short term, could be useful because the Mets — despite considering Reyes persona non grata recently — suddenly needed their back-of-the-bench infielder Sunday night when Asdrubal Cabrera was forced to exit the game after three innings because of a tight left hamstring.
Considering that Reyes already was halfway out the door at Citi Field, this may leave it open a crack, especially after the Mets released Adrian Gonzalez and DFA’ed Jose Lobaton about an hour after their 2-0 victory over the Yankees on Sunday night.
Mickey Callaway said Cabrera won’t need a DL stint, but we’ve heard that one before. The Mets’ margin for error on injuries usually is somewhere between two days and two months.
So if Reyes’ time in a Mets uniform is dwindling, he got a small reprieve Sunday, with mixed results.
Reyes, who had a previous total of 10 innings at second base this season, replaced Cabrera and had two productive turns at the plate. In the fifth, he hit a two-out single off Luis Severino and scored on Todd Frazier’s homer. In the seventh, he battled Adam Warren for 10 pitches before flying out to center.
The lasting impression, however, came in the eighth inning and reminded us why Reyes has been in the doghouse. He committed two errors on one botched double play, failing to touch second — his feet straddled the bag — and firing the relay wide of first. Fortunately for him, Robert Gsellman got the next two outs without any damage.
“I rushed the throw a little bit,” Reyes said. “But no excuses. I have to make that play. Gsellman picked me up. That’s what teammates do.”
Before Sunday night, Reyes might as well have been collecting his 401(k) because the Mets weren’t using him to play much baseball, the job they’re paying him $2 million for this season. He was hitting .139 with a .205 on-base percentage in 42 games, only 13 of them starts, and his playing time was vanishing. Reyes was becoming an inexcusable total waste of a roster spot.
Through the first eight games of this home stand, dating to May 31, Reyes had a total of five plate appearances. We could understand if Callaway wasn’t able to squeeze the struggling Reyes into a powerhouse lineup. But the Mets scored a total of 10 runs during that stretch and still didn’t think Reyes could help manufacture offense.
When asked about Reyes barely seeing the field lately, Callaway reacted as if he were as surprised as anyone that the infielder still was in his clubhouse.
“It’s a difficult situation right now,” Callaway said before the game. Not “we need to get Jose some more at-bats” or “we’re hoping that Jose heats up soon.” Callaway responded like an irritated dad still waiting for his 35-year-old son to move out of his parents’ basement.
And just like that uncomfortable scenario, Reyes isn’t just going to wake up one day and decide he’s leaving on his own.
During a conversation Saturday, Reyes expressed frustration with his ever-shrinking playing time but never suggested he was feeling old or thinking about calling it quits.
“I show up every day and get ready to play,” he said then. “That’s all I can do.”
SNY reported Sunday on the network’s website that Mets officials had discussed “a stage-managed exit — perhaps in the form of a retirement news conference.” But one team source told Newsday that was premature, even though the Mets will have more roster decisions to make soon, starting with the activation of Wilmer Flores next week.
Sunday was the 15-year anniversary of Reyes’ big-league debut at age 19. He will be forever linked with injured captain David Wright as the duo that was supposed to be the Doc and Darryl for the next generation.
But just as that pairing went sour after the 1986 title, Reyes and Wright aren’t going to get their storybook ending, either — or a World Series ring.
Those who haven’t become embittered by Reyes’ decline may be saddened by the disappointing coda of his second Flushing stint. The only thing prolonging it now, however, may be the severity of Cabre ra’s tight hamstring.