Reyes returns from 11-month layoff

NEW YORK -- Jose Reyes made an unsteady return to the New York lineup Saturday, with a base hit that nearly spurred a ninth-inning rally and an error at shortstop that nearly cost the Mets a run.

"I was a little anxious," Reyes admitted afterward.

He was sidelined all but 36 games last year by a hamstring problem, then missed most of spring training with a hyperactive thyroid.

Hyperactive might be a good way to describe him in the clubhouse before the game.

Reyes bounced around the room with an enormous smile on his face, joking with anybody who stopped by his locker to wish him luck. After taking batting practice, he was greeted in the dugout by general manager Omar Minaya, who gave him a big hug.

"I was thinking about that this morning, it's been almost a year, 11 months, since he's been on the field," Minaya said. "It's nice to have him back."

Reyes had his lone hit leading off the ninth inning, but was stranded at third when Rod Barajas hit a liner that Nationals outfielder Willie Harris snared with a diving grab. The catch preserved the Nationals' 4-3 victory.

A couple innings earlier, Reyes misjudged a line drive by Ivan Rodriguez that wound up in center field for an error. Rodriguez was left standing on second when the inning ended.

"There was a lot of nervous energy today, but Jose will settle in," manager Jerry Manuel said. "It's no problem for Jose, he'll get into the rhythm just like everybody else. That's how athletic he is. He's athletic enough to catch up with the speed."

Reyes hasn't played since May 20 because of the hamstring injury, which the team initially hoped would be resolved with simple rest. While he was running during rehab, though, a new tear developed in his right hamstring and he had surgery in October.

The bad luck that followed him all season wasn't done.

Reyes arrived at spring training ready to play, but doctors detected an abnormality during a physical and he was taken out of the lineup for tests. The thyroid problem was discovered and Reyes was forced to sit out a few weeks, forcing him to miss the first four games of the season while he got in shape in the minors.

He was so excited to return that he arrived at about 8:20 a.m., roughly five hours before the first pitch Saturday, making himself at home in his corner of the clubhouse.

"I'm sure he won't be here so early tomorrow," outfielder Jeff Francoeur said.

While his teammates were certainly glad to see Reyes putting on his uniform, a short walk across the infield and into the other clubhouse made it clear that not everybody at Citi Field was thrilled to see his name atop the batting order.

"He's a dynamic player," said Nationals manager Jim Riggleman, comparing Reyes to Nyjer Morgan, Washington's speedy outfielder. "He's a high-energy player, which can really add to the ballclub."