Reyes, Niese look healthy in Mets intrasquad game

BY foxsports • March 1, 2010

Jose Reyes was admittedly nervous before the New York Mets' intrasquad game on Monday. He also said it felt a little weird when he stepped into the batter's box in the first inning.

He put that uneasiness behind him in a hurry.

Reyes hit the first pitch from Tobi Stoner into the right-field corner for a two-run triple, coasting into third in his first game-like setting since he was sidelined for most of last season by an injured right leg.

``I just feel happy that I made it to third base with no problem, at that time,'' a grinning Reyes said. ``But like I said, there's nothing to worry about. I feel good. No pain, pain-free. I feel good to be playing the game again.''

Reyes, a switch-hitting shortstop who has been in the leadoff spot for most of his career, batted third during the scrimmage. Manager Jerry Manuel is toying with the move with All-Star center fielder Carlos Beltran expected to miss the start of the season following right knee surgery.

``I feel very confident that he can handle that,'' Manuel said. ``I think it gives us a great balance if we can pull that off.''

The Mets also got an encouraging outing from Jonathon Niese, who is coming back after tearing his right hamstring last year. The left-hander struck out the side in the first and worked around a one-out walk during a scoreless second.

``It's a good feeling to face hitters in a game situation. It's been a while,'' said Niese, who is trying to win the No. 5 spot in New York's rotation. ``It's good to get off to a good start.''

Niese was hurt covering first base against St. Louis on Aug. 5, and collapsed when he tried to throw a practice pitch - one of the lasting images from a trying season for the Mets. He spent three weeks in bed after surgery to repair his hamstring and couldn't walk normally for six weeks.

``I just remember the last pitch he made in Citi Field,'' said second baseman Alex Cora, who struck out swinging against Niese in the first, ``and to see him doing what he did to us today, I'm very happy for him.''

The Mets were riddled by injuries last year when they used the disabled list 22 times for 19 players, including eight former All-Stars. Mets players spent more than 1,480 days on the DL, more than any other major league team, according to STATS LLC.

Reyes' absence was particularly painful, robbing New York of its speedy catalyst at the top of the order. He had scored at least 113 runs in each of the previous three seasons.

Reyes' run around the bases in first plate appearance Monday was another reminder of how much the Mets missed him last year.

``It was good to see him back on the field because that's where he belongs,'' third baseman David Wright said. ``I think you could tell by kind of his body language and just the smile on his face that no matter what he did he was happy to be out there.''

Reyes went on the disabled list last May with right calf tendinitis and wasn't able to get his leg back to normal for the rest of the season. He had surgery in October to clean up some scar tissue remaining from a torn hamstring tendon behind his right knee.

His feel-good spring took an eventful turn last week when he was interviewed by federal investigators regarding a Canadian doctor accused of selling an unapproved drug. Reyes said Sunday that everything was OK because he didn't do anything wrong, and he just told the investigators about the treatment he received from Dr. Anthony Galea last year.

An attorney for Galea has said his client denies any wrongdoing.

NOTES: New LF Jason Bay didn't play in the intrasquad game. ``He was so caught up in that Canada thing that he needed a day to breathe,'' Manuel cracked. Bay, who was born in Trail, British Columbia, watched with some teammates at a local bar as Canada beat the U.S. on Sunday for the Olympic gold medal in hockey. He is expected to play when the Mets host the Braves on Tuesday in major league baseball's first spring training game of the year. RHP Nelson Figueroa is scheduled to start for New York.

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