In spring training, I heard multiple Mets people say Jose Reyes was re-signed mostly to be a mentor to Amed Rosario, while also acting as a hedge against any infield injuries.
So far, there has been no such injury. Rosario looks totally comfortable in the big leagues and is seen spending most of his time before games with Yoenis Cespedes -- not Reyes.
Meanwhile, Reyes, who signed a one-year, $2 million this past winter, entered Tuesday's game hitless in 16 at-bats.
In the sixth inning against the Nationals, with the Mets down one run and with runners on first and third base, Mets manager Mickey Callaway chose to pinch hit Reyes for Zack Wheeler.
"I think he'll get going," Callaway later said. "He's a guy that's been around for a long time."
The Nationals countered Callaway's move by bringing in a left-handed reliever, which turned Reyes to hit from the right side of the plate. As a result, he struck out on five pitches. He's now 0-for-17.
Callaway later explained to reporters that he liked the matchup, regardless of which reliever was summoned to pitch for the Nationals.
"He was a good matchup," Callaway explained. "He's our switch-hitter off the bench. Only righty we had going against the lefty. ... If we had a right-handed hitter, maybe we would have gone a different route. But we didn't. We put all our righties in the lineup to start the game."
Reyes was essentially a fill-in player last season for the Mets, but he filled in at a different position nearly every day. This year, because the roster is littered with players that can handle shortstop, third and second base, including Reyes, he has been relegated to serving only as pinch hitter, which he said late-Tuesday has been a difficult transition for him.
"Pinch-hitting is tough. I am used to playing every single day, so I need to adjust to my new role," Reyes said after the game, looking wide-eyed and bewildered talking to reporters in front of his locker. "When you have only one opportunity, it's kind of hard. I am going to put a little bit of pressure on myself. But I am going to find a way. It's still early for me and I'm learning the new role that I'm in."
Reyes ended last season on fire, hitting .328 with a .408 OBP, 14 extra base hits, 19 RBI and 11 stolen bases, while playing three infield positions and getting 31 starts during the team's final 34 games.
However, this season, he has started just three times. In the other 12 games, he's received only eight plate appearances and has yet to hit higher than seventh in the batting order.
Meanwhile, Rosario has started every other game at shortstop and is hitting .240 with four extra base hits. This seems like an OK start, but he has also struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances and his .240 average comes with a .353 BABIP. In other words, while it's a seemingly decent start, it has the potential to turn ugly fast if he starts getting less lucky when making contact.
The point is, Rosario, who spends most of his time with Cespedes, is struggling with Reyes on the roster. Also, Reyes is struggling with Reyes on the roster. So, why is Reyes on the roster?
Callaway himself said Tuesday night he needs more right-handed pop on the bench. At the same time, he has several people he clearly prefers to have in the field before using Reyes. So, again, why is Reyes on the roster? If it's Rosario, how is Reyes helping? If it's for his versatility in the field, why is he mostly a pinch hitter? If it's for his bat, then where is his bat?
"I'm sure that he is probably not happy with what he's done so far, but we have faith in him he'll get it going," Callaway added before pivoting to a different topic.
I will always be a fan of Reyes on field. He's been one of my favorite players to watch throughout his career. He loves the Mets, which (as a fan) I also appreciate. However, he's looking slow and confused and taking up space on a roster that seemingly doesn't need him right now.
The alternative is to replace Reyes with Triple-A infielders Philip Evans or Gavin Cecchini, both of whom would likely do a similar job to Jose if on the team right now. So, because of his supposed influence on Rosario, and given his history with us and the organization, I'm willing to give Reyes a bit more time to adjust to being a bench player in hopes that he can turn things around and become useful to Callaway.
However, eventually, he has to come through when being called on to produce. Because, if at the end of the day he's here only to serve as a guide to Rosario, it means he's a coach not a player. And, in a season when the Mets have started 12-3 and feel confident about contending for the postseason, they need all the productive players they can find... not more coaches.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!