Jose Reyes back in Mets' lineup on Saturday

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capt.35783eee24304be6b224b727971d63ca-4cc0d27cb57744b8a6a6aa0410dfae73-0.jpgAs expected, Jose Reyes will make his return to the Mets on Saturday afternoon against the Nationals, leading off against left-hander John Lannan. It will be Reyes’ first game since May 20 of last season. Adam Rubin of ESPN New York just tweeted the lineup a little earlier, but after all the stops and starts over the past year, I’m not going to believe it until I actually see it with my own two eyes.

You’ll have to forgive me for this fanboy moment, but I might be more excited about Reyes’ return than I was for Opening Day. To truly understand why this is, you’ll have to remember what he has represented to Mets fans ever since his debut as a raw and unpolished talent at the age of 19: Hope.

In 2003, Reyes was a much-needed shot in the arm to a fanbase stuck rooting for an aging (and losing) team that included the likes of Mike Piazza, Mo Vaughn, Jeromy Burnitz, Roberto Alomar, Rey Sanchez, Roger Cedeno, Al Leiter and John Franco. More broadly, while the above names were brought in via trade and free agency, Reyes was ours. A contrast. Homegrown. As a result, we’ve always taken a very specific form of pride when he scampers around the bases. We’ve also empathized with him through numerous health setbacks, from all the early problems with his legs to this most recent episode with his thyroid.

The impact of Reyes’ absence on the lineup over the past year has been patently obvious, but it’s also been a reminder of what he really means to the franchise. That being said, he’s no quick fix. He can’t be the Mets No. 2 starter, or their No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5, for that matter. But for one day, none of that stuff matters. And that’s a pretty powerful thing.