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Saturday, May 15, 2010
Reyes moves back to leadoff spot

By Adam Rubin

New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes batted leadoff on Saturday against the Marlins, with Angel Pagan batting third.

Reyes went 2 for 5 with two runs, but the Mets lost 7-5.

Reyes started 20 games as the No. 3 hitter. He batted .207 with no homers and six RBIs in 82 at-bats in the third slot, and was hitting .143 with runners in scoring position over his last eight games.

Jerry Manuel approached Reyes late Friday and told him: "I have to send you home."

Reyes had no idea what the Mets manager was talking about.

"Home," Manuel reiterated. "Leadoff."

"He said, 'Good try. I appreciate it,'" Reyes said.

With that, Reyes was placed back in his customary leadoff spot on Saturday. And Reyes was bubbling over with excitement at the decision.

"I feel like I'm going home to see my family," said Reyes before the game. "... If you see my numbers, they're not too good. I think this is going to help me out."

When Reyes batted third on April 23 against the Atlanta Braves, it snapped a string of 591 straight starts in the leadoff spot. That was the third-longest active streak in the majors for a particular slot at the time. Albert Pujols ranked first with 1,023 straight starts at No. 3, followed by Ichiro Suzuki making 896 straight starts at No. 1.

The longest streaks in a particular spot in Mets history: Keith Hernandez, third (787 games, 1983-89); Reyes, first (591, 2005-April 22); Felix Millan, second (446, 1973-76).

Manuel's lone lineup change Saturday was flipping Pagan and Reyes in the order. Pagan, who had been leading off, started in the No. 3 hole for only the second time in his career Saturday. The other instance came Aug. 15, 2006 with the Chicago Cubs at Houston.

As much as Manuel maintained there should be no difference in Reyes' approach as a leadoff or third hitter, clearly Reyes didn't grasp that concept. That's not to suggest Reyes sulked over the original switch.

The shortstop suggested about batting third: "The mindset is different ... They pitch you different there. They throw a lot of breaking balls. I'm not used to seeing that many breaking balls."

Still, Reyes noted: "When you're struggling, if they get you out with one pitch, they're going to keep throwing and throwing it. When you make an adjustment, they back off. But like I said, when you're struggling, you're struggling no matter where you hit in the lineup."

Manuel wouldn't rule out revisiting Reyes in the No. 3 hole at some point this season, but it very much appears on the backburner.

"At some point in his baseball life, I think that's a possibility," Manuel said before the game. "Do I see that this season? Maybe. I won't throw it out."

Manuel acknowledged perhaps Reyes will produce better as a leadoff hitter because he's more comfortable, even if conceptually the approach at the plate and therefore the result should be the same no matter where he was placed in the lineup.

"As a manager, you try to find something that would give him some hope," Manuel said. "Does it make a world of difference? It could. But it's still baseball. If he is delighted, that's good. That's a good thing. But we also won eight straight games when he was in that [No. 3] spot."

Manuel has more changes planned for Sunday, when the Mets next face a right-handed pitcher. That means both personnel and batting order juggling.

He plans to start Chris Carter in place of Jeff Francoeur or Jason Bay. Alex Cora should spell Luis Castillo at second base. Henry Blanco, who has rejoined the Mets after a bereavement leave, should start over Rod Barajas. And David Wright may get a day off to regroup.

"I'll see how David is tonight -- what he does," Manuel said. "But I don't sense fatigue from the guys. I just sense a struggle for us offensively."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for You can follow him on Twitter.