07/09/10 12:22 PM ET
Reyes' All-Star nod a testament to hard work
Mets shortstop thrives after overcoming injuries, adversity
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
"Two twenty-one," Reyes muttered to himself, reciting his batting average at the time. He knew it down to the last thousandth of a percentage point. The date was May 13.
Reyes bottomed out a few days later, not long after manager Jerry Manuel finally relented and shifted him back to the leadoff spot in the lineup. Then, beginning May 22 against the Yankees, Reyes caught a rare sort of fire, batting .349 with six homers, four triples and 10 steals in 36 games. The Mets went 24-12 over that span. They are 30-9 when he scores at least one run.
And the league has taken notice. On Sunday, Reyes was named to his third career All-Star Game -- a feat even he thought impossible back in April.
"I knew in my mind I still had talent," Reyes said. "I still believed in my talent. I just needed to keep working and working."
All winter, Mets fans and personnel monitored Reyes as the superstar shortstop worked to recover from the torn right hamstring tendon and related issues that sidelined him for four months last season. In a widely circulated video from early February, Reyes can be seen sprinting at full speed at a Long Island athletic training facility. The Mets, despite their shortstop's lingering woes last season, fully believed that Reyes would be back to full strength well before April.
And he would have been -- or at least might have been -- if not for the thyroid imbalance that blindsided him three weeks into Spring Training. The prescription was an indefinite amount of time off from all physical activity, not only setting back his normal Spring Training progression but also preventing him from continuing to strengthen his hamstring.
He hated it. He had no choice.
After resting, altering his diet and recovering, Reyes reported to the Mets a week into the season, but he was not the same.
Gone was the lightning speed that had defined him for the first seven years of his career. Gone was the bat speed and the timing that helped him reach base early and often. Gone was the power and the energy.
Gone was the incessant grin.
At 26 years old, Reyes was a shell of his former self, staring at clubhouse ceilings and muttering.
"But at the same time, I was positive in my mind that I was going to turn it around at some point," Reyes said. "I always was strong in my mind. I never let myself get down, even when I was doing bad. It's frustrating, because you want to do good. When things don't happen the way that you want to, you get frustrated sometimes. But if you just stay strong in your mind and keep working every day, you're going to see the results later."
"It's not like he was coming from 15 days out," backup infielder Alex Cora said. "He was out a year. No matter how good of an athlete and a baseball player he is, it takes a while."
The wait, the Mets feel, was worth it. Though Reyes still may not possess remarkable overall numbers, the stats are quite sensational considering where he started. And they provided more than enough justification for his National League peers to vote him third among NL shortstops, behind All-Star starter Hanley Ramirez -- who won the fan vote -- and Troy Tulowitzki, who can not play because of injury.
It was as much a testament to Reyes' reputation and abilities as to his recent hot streak at the plate.
"He's a dynamic player," Manuel said recently. "He has a tremendous amount of energy -- he's very charismatic in his style of play, and exciting."
"We all know what he means," Cora said. "He's been that guy for a few years here already, and it's great to have him healthy and doing the things he's capable of doing."
Cora, who has spent plenty of time turning double plays with Reyes over the past two springs, always believed it was a matter of "when" and not "if" with Reyes. And most Mets shared that sentiment.
But the setbacks dogging Reyes were frightening ones. As much as the Mets wanted to -- and had to, to some extent -- believe that he would turn out just fine, there was always the thought that perhaps he would not.
That's why Reyes worked. Oh, did he work -- harder than he had as a rookie, harder than he had in his recovery from hamstring surgery, harder than he ever has in his professional life. It wasn't so much that he had something he wanted to prove. It was that he had something he needed to prove.
"It's not like I was sitting down here waiting for something to happen," Reyes said. "I was working hard, man, every day."
The results have shown this, and the players have voted. Reyes is now an NL All-Star for the third time in his career, and the first since 2007. And despite a nagging oblique injury, he's going to play. He's been adamant about that. For Reyes, this All-Star Game appearance means perhaps a bit more than it did in 2006 or '07, when his star was still burning white-hot. Those selections were nice, but they came without adversity.
This latest selection represents not only what Reyes has accomplished, but everything he has overcome.
"It always means a lot, no matter if I had a lot of problems the last year and a half," he said. "When you go to the All-Star Game, it's a great feeling. There are so many great players in the National League, and not everybody can make it. When they pick you, they pick you for a reason. I appreciate that, so I'm going to enjoy it the most that I can."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.