NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Mets signed shortstop Jose Reyes to a minor league contract on Saturday, creating a reunion with the team’s former star who now must overcome a suspension for domestic violence as he attempts to revive his career.
In a move general manager Sandy Alderson said was unrelated, slumping outfielder Michael Conforto was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas and outfielder Brandon Nimmo was called up to be with the team for Saturday night’s game at Atlanta.
The 33-year-old Reyes played primarily at shortstop for the Mets from 2003-11 but may be used in a utility role in his return. Alderson said Reyes will play this base in his first minor league game with the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones on Sunday.
Alderson said Reyes also will work in the outfield.
Reyes was released by Colorado after he served a 59-day suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.
Alderson said during a conference call he believes Reyes deserves a second chance, though he acknowledged he expects some fans will not agree with the decision.
“I do believe he is a good person at heart, a good person who made a big mistake and a good person who deserves a second chance with conditions,” Alderson said, adding one condition is Reyes must continue counseling.
New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito released a statement slamming the signing.
“It’s outrageous how little women’s lives seem to matter when someone can throw a baseball really hard, wins Super Bowls, or has a good jump shot,” she said. “Domestic violence kills thousands of women every year and it’s time professional sports actually takes it seriously. The Mets should be ashamed. We need to be better.”
Alderson was asked what he would say to fans offended by the decision to sign Reyes.
“I think we fully understand there will be differences of opinion about this,” Alderson said. “Some people will feel strongly and differently. I think we accept that and we respect that. All I can say is Jose and the organization will be held to a standard going forward that recognizes the seriousness of domestic abuse and commitment to stand against it.”
Colorado released Reyes earlier Saturday and is responsible for the $38,021,858 remaining in his contract: $12,021,858 of this year’s $22 million salary, next year’s $22 million salary and a $4 million buyout of a 2018 club option. If Reyes is added the Mets’ 40-man roster, New York would be responsible for just a prorated share of the $507,500 minimum, which would be offset against what the Rockies owe.
In a statement released by the Mets, Reyes repeated his apology.
“As I have expressed in the past, I deeply regret the incident that occurred and remain remorseful and apologetic to my family,” Reyes said. :I have completed the counseling required by MLB, have been in ongoing therapy, and will continue with counseling going forward. I appreciate the Mets organization for believing in me and providing the opportunity to come back home to New York.”
Alderson said Reyes will not play shortstop. Reyes’ first chance with the Mets could come at third base. David Wright could miss the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. First baseman Lucas Duda and outfielder Juan Lagares also are on the disabled list.
Mets manager Terry Collins spoke with Reyes and said the four-time All-Star will hit leadoff when he joins the team.
“He’s some kind of excited to be back here,” Collins said.
Reyes has a .290 career batting average and had four straight seasons with 50 or more steals with the Mets. He hit a combined .274 with Toronto and Colorado in 2015 while playing at shortstop.
Conforto is hitting .222 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs, going into a prolonged slump after hitting .365 with four homers and 18 RBIs in April. Expanding his strike zone, he batted .169 in May and .119 with 22 strikeouts and seven hits in 59 at-bats this month. Overall he has hit only .091 (4 for 44) against left-handers.
Alderson said the decision to send Conforto back to the minors was made after he failed to find his stroke in a stretch of facing primarily right-handed pitchers over 10 games.
“I think in talking with the coaching staff and manager at some point this is counterproductive, and it was time to get him to Las Vegas and get his swing back and hopefully get him back here in a short period of time,” Alderson said. “Frankly, we felt we put it off a little too long and maybe to Michael’s detriment.”
Conforto hit .270 with nine homers in 56 games as a rookie last year and batted .333 with two homers in the World Series. Nimmo, the Mets’ first-round pick in 2011, was hitting .328 with five homers and 37 RBIs at Las Vegas.
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