Reyes bunted for a base hit to lead off the first inning on Sept. 28, 2011. And having secured the National League batting title over Ryan Braun, Reyes requested to depart the game. He had retreated to the dugout by the time the Citi Field faithful recognized he had been pulled and could salute him.
Now, the Mets faithful will ambivalently welcome him back to Queens in early July. And Reyes will be a solid fit for the Mets, just as the in-season additions of James Loney and Kelly Johnson have paid dividends to offset the injuries to David Wright and Lucas Duda.
Reyes suited up for the Brooklyn Cyclones on Sunday as his week to 10-day tune-up in the minors kicked off. He was serenaded like old times with “Jo-se, Jo-se, Jo-se” soccer-style chants.
Still, this will not be like old times.
A natural shortstop, Reyes manned third base for the Cyclones on Sunday. He likely will see plenty of time there for the Mets upon his return, too. Alex Rodriguez obviously made that shortstop-to-third-base transition upon joining the Yankees, albeit with a spring training to get acclimated. Still, Reyes already has played on that side of the infield. And he may be an upgrade by default, even with unfamiliarity at the hot corner.
Let's face it: There probably is no cavalry coming to otherwise rescue the Mets at third base. So if it's not Reyes, it's Flores -- at least for the bulk of upcoming games.
There is no sign Wright will be a factor at any point this season, although the captain undoubtedly is determined to contribute in September and potentially October. Wright underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck on June 16 -- a procedure that required fusion, which typically restricts some mobility.
And while the Mets plan to work out free-agent infielder Yulieski Gourriel this week and his signing cannot be ruled out, they have shown no recent inclination to get into bidding frenzies for Cuban defectors, either.
Manager Terry Collins also has designs on testing Reyes in the outfield. The Mets cited Ian Desmond's transition from shortstop to center field with the Texas Rangers as an example. Portraying that transition as simple for an athlete may be a stretch, so here’s hoping Brandon Nimmo thrives in left field and using Reyes so far outside his comfort zone becomes less necessary.
Offensively, Collins plans to use Reyes as a leadoff hitter. And, it seems indisputable, he'll be a particular asset there since the Mets lack team speed. Any.
Even a 33-year-old Reyes -- who had .310 on-base percentage last season -- should be an improvement in terms of helping to manufacture runs.
After all, Wright currently leads the team with three steals. If the Mets do not homer, they do not score.
Despite exaggerated tales of his baseball demise, Reyes stole a combined 24 bases last season with the Toronto Blue Jays and Rockies. Another positive byproduct of Reyes leading off is relocating Curtis Granderson to a position where he potentially can drive in runs. The Mets currently have 15 as a team.
General manager Sandy Alderson, who watched Reyes play for Brooklyn on Sunday, acknowledges this isn’t Reyes circa 2006 or 2011 -- the Reyes that Mets fans adored.
Reyes doesn’t have to be that player, though, to be valuable or a quality fit. He will cost only a prorated portion of the $507,500 MLB minimum.
"Do we expect him to win the National League batting title this year the way he did in 2011? No,” Alderson said. “Has he lost a step? Maybe. Is he the premier shortstop that he once was? It doesn't really matter -- he's not going to play shortstop. So we've taken all of those things into account. We think he can help us.
"You know, from a motivational standpoint, I don't think we would be able to find a player who is more determined, more highly motivated to perform than Jose is today."