Thursday, April 22, 2010 Updated: April 23, 6:09 PM ET
Mets' Reyes to bat third this weekend
By Adam Rubin ESPNNewYork.com
NEW YORK -- The game's consummate leadoff hitter is headed to the No. 3 hole in the New York Mets' lineup.
Manager Jerry Manuel has informed Jose Reyes that he intends to bat the shortstop third this weekend against the Atlanta Braves in an attempt to jumpstart the team's dormant offense.
"I said, 'Whatever is best for the team, I'm going to do it,'" Reyes told ESPNNewYork.com. "I don't have any problem."
Jose Reyes will hit third ahead of a struggling Jason Bay.
Even with Thursday's 5-2 win against the Chicago Cubs, the Mets have been anemic at the plate this season.
The Mets have a .229 team average, which dips to .196 with runners in scoring position. They have reached double digits in hits just once through 16 games for only the second time in franchise history, matching the 1978 edition that went 66-96 under Joe Torre, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Cleanup hitter Jason Bay, who signed a four-year, $66 million contract last offseason, has no homers and three RBIs.
As a result, Manuel intends to put Reyes in the No. 3 slot, directly ahead of Bay. The hope is Bay will see more fastballs with a steal threat in front of him and therefore have more success at the plate.
"He said, 'Do your thing. Don't try to be different there because you're going to hit three,'" Reyes said. "I said, 'Oh, yeah. I'm going to be me. I'm going to take it like I'm going to be leadoff.' He explained it to me. I said, 'I don't have a problem Jerry.'"
Manuel wanted to install Reyes as the No. 3 hitter from Opening Day. However, Reyes was idled for three weeks in spring training with a hyperactive thyroid and opened the season on the disabled list. When he returned, Manuel resisted moving Reyes from the sparkplug's customary leadoff spot because he didn't want to upset Reyes' comfort level at a time when the shortstop already was feeling overwhelmed at the plate because of rustiness.
Reyes, already the franchise's all-time leader in steals and triples at age 26, has never batted third in his career. In fact, he hasn't started a game outside the leadoff spot since 2005, when Willie Randolph started him in the No. 2 hole three times and in the No. 7 hole twice.
Bay, for his part, wholeheartedly endorsed trying Reyes ahead of him. The left fielder is in the most pronounced funk to open a season in his career. With Thursday's 0-for-4 performance, Bay's average slipped to .224. His last homer came Sept. 21, 2009 with the Boston Red Sox off Kansas City Royals left-hander Lenny DiNardo. The 27-game homerless drought spanning two seasons -- 30 games including last year's American League Division Series -- is the longest of Bay's career.
"This has happened before," Bay said about his struggles. "Never this early, so it's that much more apparent. I haven't done hardly anything, and we're two games under .500. The guys are battling and hanging in there, and hopefully it will turn around sooner rather than later and I'll help out."
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While Manuel hoped Bay would benefit from seeing more fastballs with Reyes ahead of him, the left fielder suggested his struggles are with every pitch, including the heaters.
"You're in-between," Bay explained regarding his funk. "You're behind on the fastball. You're early on a breaking ball. There's a guy out there trying to get you out. When you're not feeling good and you're kind of in-between on pitches and not seeing it that great, you almost have to guess right. That's the problem. You're not in the position right now to react to every pitch. I'm kind of putting myself where I'm being stuck to one pitch. And even then, if I get it, I'm kind of in-between.
"Usually, my swing, it's kind of compartmentalized. There's some separation. You get ready. You see the ball. And then you swing. And right now it all happens at one time. There's no recognition. It's just there's the ball, swing. Everything happens at one time."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.