By Ernie Palladino
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A lot of bad things happen even to the best of good players in April.
So let’s all take a breath and stop the hysteria over Jose Reyes’ slow start.
OK, truth be told, it’s worse than slow. It’s real, real bad. He was schlepping along down there at .105 after a 1-for-4 night in the 6-4 loss to the Phillies on Thursday, flailing away in the batter’s box with nary a clue in sight. It has impacted his fielding and base running, and cost him his position as leadoff hitter.
Reyes has never had a worse April, and that includes 2014 when he started off at .200. So it’s understandable that so many residents of the Mets’ universe have been left to wonder when Terry Collins will give up on the 33-year-old. When will the time come when Collins installs Wilmer Flores as his permanent third baseman and relegates Reyes to the junk pile?
To that, Collins has said “Not yet.”
Of that, he is absolutely correct. The infection in Flores’ knee that came to light Thursday will keep him out some time, as could the left hamstring injury Yoenis Cespedes suffered against the Phillies the same day.
Also, Lucas Duda went out the day before with a hyperextended elbow, and Travis d‘Arnaud pinch-hit Thursday with a bruised hand. So it’s safe to say that Collins is now in a lineup-stressed situation. Reyes just happens to be one of the healthy hands available, his anemic hitting notwithstanding.
The heat is on, and Reyes finds himself in the middle of it.
Though it seems Reyes is as lost in the jungle as old Dr. Livingston was before Mr. Stanley happened upon him, one has to believe the veteran infielder will snap out of it. The Mets still have nine games in April, which means Reyes still has time to pull that batting average close to the respectable numbers he’s posted almost every one of his 11 previous Aprils.
He’s usually around .250 by the end of the month, but has been as high as .395 in 2013. Also consider that he’s only hit as high as .300 twice for a season since his first full-time year in 2005.
Still, as a .288 lifetime hitter, one has to think Reyes will come around eventually to provide the table-setting skills he possesses.
It’s a matter of patience, something the Mets can afford given the support others like Jay Bruce have afforded them. Bruce, the newest early-season hero in Flushing, provided all the runs in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the Phillies that broke a four-game losing streak.
They came out of Thursday at 8-8, certainly well behind the crosstown rival Yankees in curb appeal, but well within reach of the NL East-leading Nationals, who sit at 9-5.
The key with Reyes is not to sit him, but to get him going.
If Collins could figure out what is ailing Reyes, he’d no doubt have an immediate solution. He seemed comfortable enough in spring training, as his .281 average over 11 games offered no hint of his disastrous start. Certainly, the revelation last week of him having an alleged second family could not have sat well with a man coming off a suspension for domestic violence last year.
But Reyes was already 10 games into his slide at that point, mired in a horrible slash of .079/.103/.105.
Age should not be a problem, because 33 is not ancient in this era. Nor have the Mets acknowledged any injury that might be hampering him.
The only thing up for public admission is their concern over why this is happening.
Collins is determined to be patient. And he can afford to. Despite Reyes’ problems, the Mets are treading water. As long as they continue to hold their own in six upcoming games against the Nationals and three against the fourth-place Braves, Reyes will have the chance to hit his way out of this slump.
It’s only proper Collins stick with him. Reyes’ history has earned him the right.
All the third baseman has to do now is win this battle against himself and get back in that leadoff spot.
Where he belongs.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino