PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If Jose Reyes moved closer to returning to the Mets' lineup when he took batting practice Monday, it was only because he moved closer to all eventuality, too. "Later" still appeared to have a lead over "sooner" after Reyes completed his batting practice session against two pitching prospects, one left-handed, the other right-handed.
To the interested and learned observers who attended what was regarded as an event, there were questions about Reyes' bat speed that were not answered. And the Mets shortstop and likely leadoff man was facing left-handed Mike Antonini and right-handed Dillon Gee, not Josh Johnson.
Reyes took 25 of the 39 pitches thrown to him to familiarize himself with the velocity and movement of offerings from two pitchers unknown to him. His swings produced more ground balls than well-struck balls. His swings didn't appear to be second nature as they undoubtedly will.
Reyes said all the right things afterwards. "I felt good. I felt very good." And his timing was "not that bad." He is anxious to play -- "No doubt." And, of course, he doesn't know when he will be cleared to play, how many Minor League games he might need to play before he would be ready for big league duty. The Mets have comparable indecision in what they say.
But the club is considering factors that might suggest that later has moved further ahead of sooner in this ongoing debate. Not surprisingly, the Mets have weighed the option involved on assigning Reyes to the disabled list. They can back date him to this past Friday, but no earlier.
An awareness of conditions that may exist during the first six-game homestand and even the first road series in Denver has developed. The thin, dry air in Colorado was one of the factors blamed when former Mets outfielder Jay Payton tore his hamstring in Coors Field in 2001. The Mets' Prevention and Recovery police may weigh in on that.
The Mets recognize how disappointed Reyes will be if he doesn't play next Monday at Citi Field. But they also feel a responsibility to protect him from himself. Moveover, an increasing number of Mets personnel -- players excluded -- are leaning toward Reyes not playing in at least the first series, games against the Marlins next Monday, Wednesday and Thursday.
But Reyes holds on to his hope. "No doubt," he said. "Everybody wants to to be in there for Opening Day because it's good to be there. But right now, we don't know what's going to happen. ... I'm getting ready as soon as possible."
He is to run the bases Tuesday and that will be followed by more evaluation. Five exhibition games remain, and the Mets still want him to play against Minor League competition before he plays in a big league exhibition game.
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.