ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jose Reyes’ brand-new healthy season was fun while it lasted.
All one-half inning of it.
Not only did he not make it through the first game, not only did he not make it through the first inning, he didn't even make it all 90 feet up the first-base line in his first at-bat of the season Monday.
So here we go again.
For Jose Reyes. And for a Blue Jays team that has been waiting for more than a year now for him to turn the key in their ignition and lead them to the kind of AL East glory that has eluded them for two decades now.
Reyes can’t stay healthy. They can’t stay healthy. And it is starting to wear on both of them.
“Last year, I only played 93 games,” a distraught Reyes said Monday night. “I want to be there and help my ball club. I want to help my ball club for 150 games, or even 162 games. So it’s painful, and disappointing for me, because I put in so much work in the offseason.
“And now,” he said, almost in disbelief at what had just happened to him, “I feel like I don’t do anything.”
He had tweaked this same hamstring with a week left in spring training. At the time, he said it was no big deal. And when his manager, John Gibbons, was asked back then what his level of concern was about his leadoff man, Gibbons replied: “Zero.”
But by Monday evening, the manager wasn’t at ground zero anymore.
“We said last year he was the one guy we couldn’t afford to lose,” Gibbons said. “And then sure enough, bam.”
The big “bam” arrived last year just two weeks into the season, when Reyes severely sprained his ankle on an awkward slide into second base. But “bam” time arrived a lot quicker this year. One at-bat. One trip up the line. Bam.
Reyes missed the Blue Jays’ final five games in Florida, came back and played five cautious innings in each of the two games in Montreal, then reinjured the hamstring in the same place Monday. Now he’ll be shut down, and told not to do anything, for at least a week. And then he’ll start over, trying to build himself back to health.
This is Reyes’ ninth trip to disabled list in his career. It is his fifth just because of hamstring issues alone, although his first since 2011. He knows the drill. And he’s tired of it.
“God give me this talent to run,” he said. “And that’s the worst thing that you can get, is to pull a hammy.”
So even when he returns, will the real Jose Reyes return with him? After he came back from last year’s injury debacle, he was thrown out six times in only 13 attempts to steal second base. Two years ago in Miami, he once went more than a month without trying to steal because his legs didn’t feel right.
So what now? Uh, we’ll get back to you on that. But this isn’t good.
And then there’s that Blue Jays team he plays for. They had so many health disasters to deal with last year that they managed to put their projected lineup on the field for only three games all season. They didn’t even make it through the first inning of the first game this season.
“I mean, that’s baseball, man,” Gibbons said. “The train keeps rolling. You’ve just got to deal with it.”
But the AL East madhouse kicked in on Opening Day. And for the Blue Jays, it couldn’t have gone worse. They walked eight batters, hit two more, threw a wild pitch, committed two errors on one play and got manhandled by David Price and the Rays 9-2.
None of that was Reyes’ fault. At least they noticed that.
“Look, we have to find a way to win,” said Opening Day starter R.A. Dickey, after walking six hitters for only the second time in his career. “Without him, without Jose, without whoever else goes down throughout the year, you’ve got to find a way to win. It starts on the mound, and, Jose in the game or not, I didn’t give us a chance to win. That has nothing to do with Jose.”
But that here-we-go-again feeling is one they know all too well. And fighting that feeling -- while navigating the insane minefield of the AL East -- seems a lot harder now than it had felt 24 hours earlier.
“It’s not going to be easy,” Gibbons said. “But it’s never easy. So we’ll find out how good we are. That’s what it comes down to.”