Eager To Drop the Leadoff Man, Manuel Shows Who’s Boss

February 20, 2009

As Mets fans here in New York attempt to suppress the lasting images of the final piece of Shea Stadium collapsing to the ground, those who most likely had the strongest connection to the former ballpark are more than twelve hundred miles away. The Mets players are in Port St. Lucie, FL tuning up for the start of the regular season. Spring Training has just about concluded its first week of workouts as players and coaches have been involved in soft hitting drills and limited pitching sessions. In a little over five days, the Mets will be participating in their first exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles.

With all the distractions of late caused by Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Mets skipper Jerry Manuel found a quick way to grab a smidgen of face time from the hungry hordes of media. With a look of confidence, Manuel told a group of reporters that he would not hesitate in tinkering with the Mets starting lineup.

Manuel’s suggestion is to move Jose Reyes from the top spot in the batting order down to the number three spot and have veteran second baseman Luis Castillo lead off. Reyes relayed that he has no problem with the proposed switch and said he would do whatever his manager wants. If the plan does come to fruition, Reyes may be hitting in front of slugger Carlos Delgado.

“I’m not going to be selfish, I’m gonna try and let him go. I’d rather hit with Jose on second than first,” Delgado said.

Manuel’s theory of placing Reyes lower in the batting order is supposed to allow for Jose to free up his mind and not worry so much about getting on base.

“I’ll hit no matter where he puts me in the lineup,” Reyes said. “I’m still going to play my game.”

Reyes is one of those special baseball players who can beat you with speed. Last season, he finished with 56 stolen bases and had nineteen triples. Two offensive categories you want in your leadoff man. It’s no secret that Reyes is a bona fide table-setter.

“It’s going to be tough,” the Mets quick-footed, shortstop said. ”That’s part of my game, the stolen base, so let’s see how that works out.”

Manuel’s tinkering may just be a notice to his players, the fans, and the media that he’s fully in charge of this Mets team and will be the one who decides what’s best for it to succeed. Or maybe it’s a warning sign of strange days to come. For now, he has done a fairly good job of detracting the disappointment of last season by keeping his team up-beat and focused.

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