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Reyes on return to leadoff: 'Going home'

Jerry Manuel approached Jose Reyes late Friday and told him: “I have to send you home.”

And Reyes had no idea what the Mets manager was talking about.

“Home,” Manuel reiterated. “Leadoff.

“He said, ‘Good try. I appreciate it,’” Reyes said.

Jose Reyes

Shortstop
New York Mets

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With that, Reyes was placed back in his customary leadoff spot on Saturday. And Reyes was bubbling over with excitement at the decision.

“I feel like I’m going home to see my family,” said Reyes, who hit .207 in 20 starts as a No. 3 hitter. “… If you see my numbers, they’re not too good. I think this is going to help me out.”

Manuel’s lone lineup change Saturday was flipping Angel Pagan and Reyes in the order. Pagan, who had been leading off, started in the No. 3 hole for only the second time in his career Saturday. The other instance came Aug. 15, 2006 with the Chicago Cubs at Houston.

As much as Manuel maintained there should be no difference in Reyes’ approach as a leadoff or third hitter, clearly Reyes didn’t grasp that concept. That’s not to suggest Reyes sulked over the original switch.

The shortstop suggested about batting third: “The mindset is different … They pitch you different there. They throw a lot of breaking balls. I’m not used to seeing that many breaking balls."

Still, Reyes noted: “When you’re struggling, if they get you out with one pitch, they’re going to keep throwing and throwing it. When you make an adjustment, they back off. But like I said, when you’re struggling, you’re struggling no matter where you hit in the lineup.”

Manuel wouldn’t rule out revisiting Reyes in the No. 3 hole at some point this season, but it very much appears on the backburner.

“At some point in his baseball life, I think that’s a possibility,” Manuel said. “Do I see that this season? Maybe. I won’t throw it out.”

Manuel acknowledged perhaps Reyes will produce better as a leadoff hitter because he’s more comfortable, even if conceptually the approach at the plate and therefore the result should be the same no matter where he was placed in the lineup.

“As a manager, you try to find something that would give him some hope,” Manuel said. “Does it make a world of difference? It could. But it’s still baseball. If he is delighted, that’s good. That’s a good thing. But we also won eight straight games when he was in that (No. 3) spot.”

Manuel has more changes planned for Sunday, when the Mets next face a right-handed pitcher. That means both personnel and batting order juggling.

He plans to start Chris Carter in place of Jeff Francoeur or Jason Bay. Alex Cora should spell Luis Castillo at second base. Henry Blanco, who has rejoined the Mets after a bereavement leave, should start over Rod Barajas. And David Wright may get a day off to regroup.

“I’ll see how David is tonight -- what he does,” Manuel said. “But I don’t sense fatigue from the guys. I just sense a struggle for us offensively.”