Reyes eligibile to return April 10 vs. Expos

Updated: April 4, 2004, 5:36 PM ET
Associated Press

PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida -- Jose Reyes' strained right hamstring will prevent him from starting the season with the New York Mets, who placed the second baseman on the 15-day disabled list.

The Mets also purchased the contracts of Shane Spencer, Eric Valent and Scott Erickson from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday night and transferred reliever Scott Strickland to the 60-day DL. Right-hander Jason Anderson and catcher Chris Widger were designated for assignment.

Reyes, 20, injured his hamstring March 14 while stealing a base during a spring training game against Minnesota and has not played since.

He was put on the DL retroactive to March 26, making him eligible to return Saturday while the Mets are in Puerto Rico to face the Montreal Expos.

"Once he gets to the point where he can start playing games, he will. I'm taking his situation one day at a time," manager Art Howe said.

Reyes, a speedy switch-hitter, already has a history of leg injuries. He's pulled the same hamstring three times in the last year.

Considered one of the top prospects in baseball, Reyes was impressive as a rookie last year after getting called up from the minors in midseason. He hit .307 in 274 at-bats and stole 13 bases before his season ended on Aug. 31 due to a severely sprained left ankle.

Reyes also made some sparkling plays at shortstop, but was shifted to second base in the offseason after Kaz Matsui came over from Japan and joined the Mets.

Injuries prevented the new double-play partners from playing together during spring training. Matsui also missed time with a cut on his finger.

Valent, a non-roster invitee, had been a long shot to make the team as a backup outfielder.

"I had reservations for a place in Norfolk, but I held off on getting any furniture because you never know," said a beaming Valent, who celebrated his 27th birthday Sunday.

Valent and his wife, Jennifer, are also expecting their first child in June.

"He's a great story," manager Art Howe said. "We really didn't know anything about him. He impressed everyone on our staff with his work ethic and how he handled himself on and off the field."

Right-handed reliever Ricky Bottalico, who had a 2.51 ERA in 10 spring appearances, was not traded by midnight Saturday and became a free agent.

Erickson will be the team's No. 5 starter. Spencer is expected to see playing time in right field. Strickland had Tommy John surgery last June 17.

The Mets will pay $9 million of the $10 million owed to OF Roger Cedeno, who was traded to St. Louis on Saturday for Widger and infielder Wilson Delgado. St. Louis will pay Cedeno $1 million over the next two years. As part of the trade, $8 million of the money owed Cedeno was converted to a bonus, which will be deferred for two years with no interest and then at 5 percent interest annually. The Mets will pay the Cardinals an additional $1 million. ... The trade leaves New York's active payroll at about $97 million, third-most in the majors behind the Yankees and Boston. The Mets' figure includes $17.2 million attributed to injured 1B Mo Vaughn, much of which the team will recoup in insurance.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press