DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With each syllable, Jose Reyes flashed that familiar wide smile he made famous in Flushing. Looking relaxed and happy, he wore a sleeveless Superman shirt as he spoke with a small group of New York reporters.
But Reyes' face really lit up when he was asked about Derek Jeter's retirement.
"I think everybody was surprised," said Reyes, who held nothing back in his praise of Jeter. "He's my idol since Day 1."
Reyes later added: "He is the best shortstop to ever play the game. If he is not the best, he is in the top two."
A year from now, you have to wonder if Reyes ends up on the short list as a possible replacement for No. 2. Since Reyes now sports a beard that could fit in at Fenway, it was jokingly mentioned that he might have to shave it next year in the Bronx. Reyes retorted that after this season he still has four years left on his deal.
But Reyes already has been traded once since signing his $106 million contract and the Yankees already have shown at least some interest in acquiring Reyes. During his free agent winter of 2011, a sources told ESPN New York, Yankees GM Brian Cashman and Reyes' agent, Peter Greenberg, spoke and there was some brief discussion if Reyes could play center field. Nothing materialized.
It is not that hard to imagine Cashman pursuing Reyes next winter. If the Blue Jays have a down year, but Reyes is still good, they may try to rebuild without Reyes. This could lead Cashman to dial the 416 area code.
It should be noted Reyes, who turns 31 in June, still makes his family residence in Long Island.
Reyes' focus is clearly with Toronto. He is looking forward to 2014, because like Jeter he feels his ankle is healthy. His severe ankle sprain limited Reyes to 93 games. Even when he returned he felt his mobility at short was limited.
"After you injure your ankle, that is never going to feel normal again," said Reyes, who had a .780 OPS and stole 15 bases. "You always have to live with something there. [Jeter] is working hard in rehab. I saw his highlights this year, running to first base. I think he is running very good. That's good to see."
Reyes thinks the Blue Jays could be better this season, even in, what he called, the "toughest division" baseball. He thinks the Yankees will find to way to get it done, despite losing Robinson Cano.
"I was surprised," Reyes said. "But, in baseball, nothing surprises me anymore."
There was a time no one thought Reyes would ever leave New York, but the Mets never offered him a contract and so he fled to Miami.
Now, a Blue Jay for a second season, he looks forward to coming to New York and seeing the Yankees so he can be on the field with his idol a few more times.
"This year more than ever," Reyes said.
Reyes has a signed Jeter jersey hanging in his home in Long Island. He also has a bat from the Captain. Maybe one day he will have Jeter's position.
"Everyone is going to miss him, for sure," Reyes said. "Not just as a player, but as a person more. He's an unbelievable guy. I'm glad to share the same field with him. Like when I played in New York, I shared the same city with Jeter. He is a role model."