Reyes' Long Wait Continues

The Mets say that they have been expecting the back pain that sent Jose Reyes back to Port St. Lucie instead of south to Miami, where the team is arriving for a weekend series with the Florida Marlins. <P> What no one could have expected is that Reyes, New York's 20-year-old boy wonder, would be experiencing the aches and pains of a person four times his age.

The 2004 season has been one frustrating setback after another for Reyes, the Mets' outstanding infielder. He is back in Port St. Lucie for more treatment and hydrotherapy, removing Reyes from any certain timetable to return to the Mets. Cliff Floyd has already plotted his escape from "The Hole," but Reyes remains, serving time with the St. Lucie Mets for offenses of hamstring pulls and lower back soreness.

Indeed, it may have been an effort to correct one of Reyes' five hamstring pulls in the last 18 months that prompted this latest malady. The Mets are actually re-teaching Reyes to run, instructing him to keep his chin hovering above his lead foot as he races from bag to bag.

That running change, while perhaps beneficial in the long run, has short-circuited any possibility of Reyes' return this weekend. It has to be expected that any time a player drastically changes the activity his body is used to, there will be setbacks and an adjustment period, and Reyes is certainly no exception.

"I felt it more and more," Reyes told the New York Daily News. "Before, I could hit and take ground balls. I could do everything. But now I can do nothing because that thing is killing me."

The balky back was another hit for the Mets, who had their fingers crossed that he'd be able to come off the disabled list on Friday, when the Mets open a three-game series at Pro Player Stadium.

He won't, and the Mets will enter June with Reyes having not played a single game this year at the Major League level.

In Reyes' absence, New York has held the fort at second base with Danny Garcia and the since-released Ricky Gutierrez, but there still is a great hope around Shea Stadium that Reyes will become the second piece of the 1986-esque "Lenny Dykstra - Wally Backman" combination atop the order that club officials envisioned when Kaz Matsui signed with the Mets over the winter.

Last week, after Reyes played for St. Lucie in a five-inning stint on Friday and a seven-inning stint on Saturday, stealing bases in each game and reporting only minor aches and pains after the latter contest, the Mets were beginning to plot out what they'd have to do with Garcia.

But on Sunday, Reyes played in his first nine-inning action of the season and had to beg for the Mets' overused hydrotherapy pool.

"The idea is to play without pain," Mets GM Jim Duquette said yesterday at Shea, the place Reyes has been unable to return to despite nearly eight weeks of rehabilitation and frustration.

The way things are going, it almost makes you wonder if he ever will.

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