Commentary

Happy anniversary? Reyes says so

Mets shortstop celebrates anniversary of MLB debut with doubleheader vs. Padres

Updated: June 11, 2010, 1:41 AM ET
By Kieran Darcy | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- June 10 is a special day in Jose Reyes' life.

On June 10, 2003, Reyes made his major-league debut, batting ninth and playing shortstop for the New York Mets in a game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas. Reyes went 2-for-4, with a double, a single and two runs scored.

June 10, 2010, didn't start out quite so well, as Reyes went 1-for-4 in the first game of a day-night doubleheader, a 4-2 Mets loss to the San Diego Padres.

But it got better -- Reyes went 3-for-4 in the nightcap, a 3-0 Mets victory.

Reyes' only hit in the first game was an infield single to lead off the bottom of the first inning -- he was subsequently stranded at first base. It was one of only two hits the Mets mustered in the afternoon affair -- the other being backup catcher Henry Blanco's two-run home run in the second.

In the second game, however, Reyes wreaked havoc. He had three singles -- two of them of the infield variety, including one on a surprise bunt. He also stole a base, and scored a run, in support of Jonathon Niese's complete-game one-hit shutout.

It's been a season of ups and downs for Reyes -- more downs than ups, actually. Through 60 games, Reyes is hitting .254 -- 30 points lower than his career batting average of .284. He also has just two home runs and 22 RBIs, and his on-base percentage is only .306.

Before Thursday's second game, Reyes had just four hits in his previous 27 at-bats.

"He's a guy that was away from the game for a period of time," manager Jerry Manuel said. "He got hot, now [opposing pitchers] seem to be making a few adjustments to him."

Reyes played only 36 games in 2009 -- he didn't play after May 20, sitting out the rest of the season and eventually having surgery in October to clean up scar tissue surrounding a torn accessory hamstring tendon in his right knee. He also tore his hamstring muscle while rehabbing that injury, which took three months to heal. And he sat out the first four games of this season after missing significant time during spring training due to a hyperactive thyroid.

But Reyes has been in the lineup every day since (except for April 19). And despite his nine-game hitting streak to end the month of May, overall Reyes hasn't given the Mets the production they're used to.

Manuel tried moving Reyes in the batting order earlier this year, from first to third -- not so much to help Reyes, but rather to break up a logjam of righty hitters and try to jumpstart some of his teammates, particularly Jason Bay. It didn't help, and Reyes was quickly returned to the top of the lineup.

But he hasn't been the dynamic leadoff hitter he once was. For instance, his walk rate (6.3 percent of his plate appearances) hasn't been this low since 2005.

From 2006-2008, Reyes' on-base percentage when leading off a game was .392, .369 and .365. With Reyes getting on base that often in the first inning, the Mets often were able to jump out to early leads on their opponents.

Reyes had leadoff hits in both games on Thursday, but his leadoff on-base percentage this season is still just .286. (Thanks to Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information.)

Remember, this is a player who hit .300 with 17 triples, 19 homers, 81 RBIs and 64 stolen bases in 2006. A player who hit .297 with 19 triples, 16 homers, 68 RBIs and 56 stolen bases in 2008.

After those injuries, and the slow start this season, questions spring to mind: When will we see that kind of production from Reyes again? Will we ever see numbers quite like that again?

His manager thinks we will, and soon.

"I think at some point you'll see him heat right up," Manuel said. "I don't see anything glaring that I can point my figure to that would keep him from getting back to doing what he does, which is hitting triples and scoring runs."

"I feel good," Reyes said after his three-hit game Thursday night. "So, hopefully I can continue to hit like that. But right now I feel good."

It's hard to believe that it's been seven years. And it has been a very good seven years. Reyes has 77 triples and 315 stolen bases in his career. He and the Tampa Bay Rays' Carl Crawford are the only two players who've made their MLB debuts in the past 100 years and had 75 or more triples and at least 300 steals before the seven-year anniversary of their first big-league game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Reyes was a phenom when he was promoted to the bigs -- 19 years old, the first teenager to play for the Mets since Dwight Gooden in 1984 -- and he lived up to the hype, becoming arguably the best leadoff hitter in the game for a period of time.

He played like that on Thursday. But he hasn't played like that for much of this season. And for all the talk about the Mets needing to add another starting pitcher, and about Carlos Beltran coming back from injury, the fact is, if the Mets are going to seriously contend for a postseason berth, they're going to need more from Reyes.

This year's June 10 wasn't nearly as memorable for Reyes as June 10, 2003. But perhaps it was the start of something?

On June 11, Jose Reyes turns 27 years old. Another year, another milestone.

Another chance to commence -- or continue -- his renaissance.

Kieran Darcy is a staff writer for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Kieran Darcy is an ESPNNewYork.com staff writer. He joined ESPN in August 2000 after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played four years of JV basketball.
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