Nearly 11 months after Jose Reyes last appeared in a major league game, after hamstring woes and then a hyperactive thyroid, the shortstop finally is ready to return to the New York Mets' lineup. Reyes rejoined the Mets on Friday at Citi Field and will be activated from the disabled list on Saturday.
"It feels like more than that. It feels like two years," said Reyes, who has not played in a major league game since last May 20 at Dodger Stadium, because right leg woes and repeated false starts scuttled the rest of his 2009 season. "I think I'm going to be a little nervous tomorrow because I never spent so much time without playing baseball."
Reyes' stint on the DL was backdated 10 days into spring training, so he has to spend only the first five days of the regular season inactive. The reasoning behind keeping him in Florida was to allow him to see pitching before throwing him in against major league arms.
Reyes had been confined to his couch for three weeks during spring training because of a hyperactive thyroid. The gland has returned to normal functioning levels, Reyes said. He added that he's tested each Monday still.
"I don't want to say my swing is like, 'Wow,' but it's OK,'" said Reyes, who went 0-for-4 in his final rehab appearance, Thursday for the Class A St. Lucie Mets. "I've been working so hard in Florida. I think I'm ready to go. ... My timing is OK. It's not unbelievable. At least I put the ball in play. I hit a couple of balls hard there. I hit a couple of doubles, a home run. But my concern right now is my leg. My leg is good."
The Mets plan to start him right away.
"Leading off tomorrow, no doubt about it," manager Jerry Manuel said. "We need that kind of spark."
"By that time I only had like 10 at-bats in the minor leagues," Reyes said. "For a guy like me, I missed so much time last year, I think I wasn't going to be ready for Opening Day."
Reyes indicated that before his spring training thyroid scare, he had not ever heard of the gland. He still is instructed to stay away from seafood -- "fish, shrimp, lobster," he said -- resulting in a primarily chicken-based diet these days.
Shortstop Ruben Tejada, as expected, was dispatched to Triple-A Buffalo to make room for Reyes. Tejada collected his first major league hit with an eighth-inning single to center field against Washington Nationals right-hander Tyler Walker in Friday's 8-2 win.
Tejada, 20, started two games this week. He went 1-for-6 with a walk and was hit by a pitch in three games overall.
"He played extremely well at shortstop," Manuel said. "I was very impressed with the way he played shortstop."
Tejada played 120 games at shortstop and 14 games at second base last season with Double-A Binghamton. With Reyes entrenched with the Mets, it's possible Tejada's ultimate home in the big leagues could be at second base.
"He could definitely play on the other side of the bag. No question about that," Manuel said, referring to second base. "I think with Jose Reyes, he has to be a guy that has to be considered in the future as a guy that can play there."
The Mets felt comfortable demoting Tejada even with Luis Castillo day to day with a right-calf injury. Castillo did not play Friday night.
"I'm sure he's OK," Manuel said about Castillo.
Tejada is expected to join Buffalo at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday as Reyes takes his familiar spot with the Mets.
"I'm glad it's over with," Reyes said. "Now it's time to focus on playing baseball."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.