JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Jose Reyes stepped into the on-deck circle, turned toward the New York Mets’ dugout and bowed.
Hard feelings, nowhere to be found.
The Miami Marlins shortstop faced his former team for the first time Thursday, shaking hands and offering hugs before the game with guys donning the orange-and-blue color scheme he used to wear. Reyes signed a $106 million, six-year deal with the Marlins during the offseason after he said the cash-strapped Mets failed to make him a competitive offer.
“Of course, I’m going to miss the fans there in New York because of all the support they gave to me,” Reyes said. “I’m going to miss that. But like I say, I have new fans now down here in Miami.”
The Marlins wound up winning 3-1.
Reyes got mostly applause as he was introduced, though some boos were mixed in as well. The real reaction from New York will come April 24, when the Marlins are set to play at Citi Field for the first time this season.
“This is nothing,” Reyes said. “It’s going to really go crazy when I go back to New York. This is spring training. This is just another game.”
As reunions go, this was largely uneventful.
Reyes took three practice swings watching R.A. Dickey warm up before the bottom of the first, slapped hands with new Marlins teammate Emilio Bonifacio and made his way into the batters’ box. He looked at a 72 mph strike from Dickey, then grounded out to the pitcher on a 77 mph offering one pitch later.
“Knuckleballs,” Dickey said. “That’s what he was going to get.”
In the third, Reyes reached high to snare Justin Turner’s sharp liner — his only defensive chance of the game, as he left following a 54-minute rain delay. After Reyes led off the final game of New York’s season last Sept. 28 with a bunt single and effectively clinched the NL batting title, he immediately was replaced in the lineup by Turner as some Mets fans booed his departure.
Another departure came a couple months later, when Reyes headed to Miami.
“I started kind of giggling to myself before he stepped in, just looking over there,” Dickey said. “You know, it’s hard. He’s such an exuberant personality, a great guy, a great teammate. … But when he got in, it was business. He meant it when he got in.”
Reyes hasn’t yet picked a new home in Miami. He’s keeping his New York place for now, and when asked if that still makes him a New Yorker, Reyes flashed his grin and said, “You know it.” He keeps in contact with several Mets, third baseman David Wright among them.
For the most part, he’s fitting in with Miami perfectly.
Most days when he’s not at the spring training facility, Reyes and Hanley Ramirez — who moved to third base to accommodate Reyes’ arrival — are playing PlayStation baseball against one other. Reyes prefers playing as the Red Sox, Ramirez plays as the Phillies, since the game won’t allow them to play Marlins vs. Marlins.
“I want to win a World Series,” Reyes said as he wore a sleeveless Marlins shirt with one of Miami’s area codes, 305, in the center. “I think, on this team, I have a better opportunity.”
Reyes could have gotten a sense of what Mets fans think of him in a new uniform earlier this spring, but the four-time All-Star and three-time stolen base champion did not travel to his former spring training home in Port St. Lucie, Fla., for either of Miami’s two games there in the past week. When the Mets visited the Marlins’ split squad on March 7, Reyes was at the team’s new downtown Miami ballpark to play Florida International.
“It’s all part of the business. It’s part of the game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said of going up against Reyes, not long before the two embraced and chatted pregame. “And so I don’t care if it happens in spring training or it happens during the season. It’s going to happen. This is a bigger news story for you guys than it is for me. I’m as interested in watching and seeing how Josh Johnson is than I am Jose Reyes.”
Collins surely liked how his team fared against the Marlins’ ace.
Jason Bay was 2 for 2 against Johnson, who gave up a run and five hits in three innings. The Mets had three straight hits off Johnson in the first, the last of those being Ike Davis’ ground-rule double that scored Turner.
Dickey was perfect through two innings, his outing interrupted by a rain delay that began just before Miami began batting in the third.
The Marlins took the lead in the seventh after a two-run error by the Mets’ Adam Loewen. Chris Coghlan and Bryan Petersen hit two-out singles and both scored when Loewen misplayed Donovan Solano’s flyball to left.
Collins was ejected in the eighth for arguing a batters’ interference call.
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