Before the exhibition schedule began, Jerry Manuel had discussed the idea of using Jose Reyes as his No. 3 hitter while Carlos Beltran worked his way back from knee surgery. Of course, the whole plan took a backseat once Reyes was sidelined for two and a half weeks due to a thyroid condition. But now that Reyes has been cleared to resume baseball activities, he tells Brian Costa of the Newark Star-Ledger that his shortstop will likely lead off once he returns to the lineup:
“I would probably see him getting a sense of comfort back in the leadoff
spot right now,” Manuel said. “Now you know me, I’ll change now. I’ll
change on you now.”
Why not? It’s pretty simple. Under the original plan, Reyes would have had four weeks to adapt to being a No. 3 hitter. The Mets no longer have the luxury of time. Figuring that Manuel doesn’t expect Reyes to play this weekend, there would be only six games left on the exhibition schedule. For a player who hasn’t done any physical activity recently, played back-to-back games or even tested his surgically-repaired hamstring against an opposing team, it seems like a little too much to ask. At this point, he’s not even a lock to even open the season on time.
I can tell you that after an absence of almost one calendar year, most Mets fans could care less where Reyes hits as long as he is actually in the lineup.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉