The best the Mets can hope for with their shortstop and projected No. 3 batter is for him to play in April. Losing Reyes again is like another kick in the stomach for the team, the first one coming last June when he injured his right hamstring.
"Not in the stomach," Johan Santana said. "In the coconut. This is tough for him and for us."
"It doesn't look good right now [for Opening Day]," general manager Omar Minaya said Thursday. "With that timeline [of two to eight weeks], every day that goes by, we have to prepare for that."
But at the same time, manager Jerry Manuel foresaw a best-case scenario that would have his shortstop participate in 10 exhibition games and, presumably, be ready for the Marlins at Citi Field in 25 days. The manager based his half-full outlook on this: Reyes hasn't been involved in more than light activity since the intrasquad game on March 1. So Manuel reasons that his projected No. 3 hitter already is well into his two-to-eight week period.
Manuel has experience, most of it unwanted by him, detecting silver linings. The manager characterized each new entry to the disabled list last summer as an opportunity for another player. His optimism at full strength, he now is cautioning against pessimism. "We don't want to get into that 'Here we go again' as an organization," he said. Manuel said these Mets are better equipped to sustain injuries.
But not the absence of Reyes. Losing him again at the beginning of a season can be baseball-catastrophic. Manuel reiterated Thursday the need for the Mets to play well and successfully at the season's outset.
Minaya declined to speculate how much time Reyes would need to become game-ready once he is cleared for activity, but it stands to reason the longer Reyes goes without physical activity, the more time he'll need to get in shape.
"He's is great shape," David Wright said, "but he'll need time to get the feel back."
If Reyes is shut down for eight weeks, he will need a minimum of two weeks of conditioning and playing in the Minor Leagues. Minaya pointed out that Reyes arrived at camp last month in what he considered the best physical condition of the shortstop's career. But now with a chance to be shut down -- no physical activity whatsoever, no activity that will increase his heart rate -- his condition is apt to regress.
Some players took Reyes' pending absence in stride. After all that beset him and them last season, they are accustomed to negative medical news. Luis Castillo, in particular, was taken aback.
"Oh my God," he said. "I have to call him."
Others, Alex Cora and Santana among them, looked beyond baseball.
"This is his life. This isn't his leg," Santana said. "Until everything is normal, forget baseball."
Cora, Minaya said, is likely to handle most of the shortstop innings. Manuel says he would be comfortable with rookie Ruben Tejada. The two could share the responsibility. But with Reyes' and Beltran's offense missing, the Mets won't be well equipped to carry the rookie's bat. Tejada therefore is more likely to serve as Cora's understudy.
If forced to abandon his Reyes-bats-third scenario, Manuel said he most likely will have Wright bat third, followed by Jason Bay and the left-handed-hitting Daniel Murphy. The absence of two switch-hitters is apt to make the Mets quite susceptible to right-handed pitching.
Were Reyes not a professional athlete, the malady probably wouldn't interfere with his job, doctors told his agent, Peter Greenberg. But he is an energized and superbly conditioned athlete.
"Jose, obviously, is a little bit disappointed that it's going to be a matter of weeks as opposed to days," Greenberg said in a conference call Thursday. "But it's a completely curable, treatable situation. I think we all view it as good news.
"Jose is supposed to rest and watch his diet. He's not supposed to do anything that is going to raise the heart level so that the irritation can go down. That's why he's staying at home, to just rest and relax and spend time with his family and watch a lot of movies. He'll be tested on a weekly basis, and hopefully the levels will start [to go] down. The doctors told us this was the best possible diagnosis and that there is no intervention or medication necessary."
"There is no medication for this," Minaya said. "What we heard from our doctors and the specialists in this area is that it's just rest for now. The doctors said that they have no doubt that as long as Jose follows the prescribed treatment, which is rest -- he can walk, he can go shopping, that kind of stuff, but he can't raise his heart rate -- as long as he follows the diet, which is no seafood, which he'll do, they have no doubt that the levels will return to normal."
Reyes and Greenberg had anticipated a better outcome. Each has indicated as much in media reports Wednesday.
"He is very disappointed, because the initial results said that he could possibly be back in a matter of days," Greenberg said. "We're guilty of speaking a little bit too soon, unfortunately."
Reyes is not expected to return to Mets headquarters here until he is cleared to resume physical activity. And no one can say with any meaningful degree of certainty when that may be. He will not be medicated and no procedure will be performed. His doctors have opted to have rest and a change of diet -- no more seafood -- to reduce his thyroid levels to normal. Hence the uncertainty.
All this came to light Thursday after team doctors shared their recommendations with the Mets' staff after reviewing the results of the latest tests Reyes had undergone.
In a 12:40 p.m. ET conference call involving Minaya and Greenberg, the agent revealed the two-to-eight week timeframe. The club had not put a timeframe on his inactivity in the news release it distributed earlier.
That release said: "The additional blood tests confirmed that Jose Reyes' thyroid hormone blood levels are elevated and he is hyperthyroid. Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek [on Wednesday] night spoke with Jose and his representatives. As prescribed by the doctors and specialists, Jose's treatment plan is to rest, refrain from athletic activity and make changes in his diet. The doctors will monitor Jose's thyroid levels through regular blood tests. Once Jose's thyroid levels return to normal, he will be cleared to resume baseball activities."
Minaya indicated the cause of the initial problem, from what doctors told him, might have been diet or a virus. A speculative report in Thursday's editions of the New York Daily News drew links between thyroid hormones and their interaction with HGH. It did not link Reyes to HGH, but the report did say, in part, "... while [tests] may reveal Reyes has a natural illness, they also come on the heels of his admission that he received treatments from Anthony Galea, a Toronto doctor who has been charged in Canada with several drug offenses and is under investigation in the U.S. for conspiring to smuggle drugs, including HGH, across the border.
"Anti-doping experts have long wondered whether abnormal levels of thyroid hormones can indicate doping. At least one clinical study has linked HGH injections to fluctuations in thyroid hormones, and it's clear that the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 have become popular among bodybuilders -- often a reliable indicator of what doping methods are on the horizon for pro sports.
"Gary Wadler, an associate professor of medicine at New York University and an adviser to the World Anti-Doping Agency, said the organization periodically considers adding thyroid hormones to the list of substances prohibited in sports abiding by the WADA code, which includes all Olympic sports."
Earlier tests, administered Monday and Tuesday, had indicated Reyes might be cleared to return to active duty this week. The final tests indicated his thyroid levels increased when he did approved physical activity Monday and Tuesday. The thyroid regulates metabolism. Elevated levels, left untreated, may cause more serious medical problems. Reyes said last week he hadn't experienced any abnormal symptoms.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.