Reyes willing to play winter ball

NEW YORK -- Jose Reyes is hoping to return to the New York Mets' lineup this season and is willing to play winter ball if it will help hasten his recovery from a torn right hamstring tendon.

Sitting in front of a locker he rarely has used since going on the disabled list May 26, the speedy shortstop on Wednesday expressed his frustration over how long it has taken him to recover from what began as tendinitis in his right calf only to escalate into a tear that might require surgery.

"I'm going to still try to come back. I've been working so hard to come back, so right now I don't want to say when but I'm still trying," Reyes said on team picture day and before the Mets played the Florida Marlins. "I missed so much time. I'd like to come back to get my confidence back and go into spring training with a better idea."

Reyes has played in only 36 games this season and is hitting .279 with 15 RBIs and 11 steals in 147 at-bats. When he went out the Mets were in second place, one-half game back of the first place Phillies in the NL East.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel is taking a similar approach to Reyes' return as he had with Carlos Beltran, who played his first game since June on Tuesday night: Despite being 17 back in the East and all but officially out of the playoff races, he wants to see how the injured players are progressing before next season.

"The more questions we can answer now, the better off we will be in spring training," Manuel said.

Manuel reiterated the point in talking about Carlos Delgado, another injured star with a chance to return before the season's over -- perhaps in two weeks, Manuel said.

Manuel said that the Mets are not going to require Reyes to play this winter but will rely on his judgment when determining if he will participate. Reyes wants to play if he feels ready.

"I have to fix my leg first," Reyes said. "If I feel like 100 percent and able to play winter in the Dominican I will play to get my confidence back."

Reyes is not currently doing baseball activities because he has been trying to strengthen the leg but believes the fielding and hitting will come once he's able to push off while running pain-free.

The Mets learned Reyes had a torn tendon in August when he returned to New York from the team's facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., where he was rehabbing his leg. He was scheduled to run the bases then but was shut down because of persistent discomfort in the leg.

Reyes is trying to get back into playing shape without surgery, but is realistic of the possibility. He sees this as one last try to skip an operation and says the leg is getting stronger.

"Surgery is not on my mind right now," Reyes said.

Shaking his head, Reyes explained he has been hurt by the reports that he was not trying hard enough to get back into the Mets lineup.

"I don't know why some people think I don't want to be on the field. I live for baseball. I always play baseball since I was little," Reyes said. "I love to be on the field. That's my main goal. If I ready the last week of the season, I'm going to play the last week of the season."