Friday morning, Jose Reyes recorded a short Instagram video while he was being driven from Toronto to Buffalo.
“Hello my people! I’m on my way to Buffalo,” he said in his thick Dominican accent.
That energy and enthusiasm spilled over into Coca-Cola Field – before the game, during the game and after the game.
Reyes has always exuded a joyful personality. And now that the rehabilitation on his left ankle is ahead of schedule and he is back on the field, back where he feels he belongs, the smile is again flashing broadly.
He went 1 for 4 with a double and run scored and turned a game-ending double play at shortstop as the Buffalo Bisons earned a 3-2 win over the Durham Bulls Friday night.
“This is what I love to do,” Reyes said. “I wasn’t able to do this for a long time. Now, I’m able to do what I do best, which is play baseball. I like to enjoy the game the most that I can.”
“I don’t know what he’s like at home, he must drive his family nuts, but he’s just a very personable young man that has got such energy and it just rubs off on everybody,” manager Marty Brown said. “Including myself and I’m getting a little older. But it’s fun. It’s energetic to watch. It makes everyone feel better.”
And Reyes is feeling better, a lot like his old self. He doubled, and surprised himself with his speed on the bases.
“I was able to do a little bit of everything and be Jose Reyes again,” Reyes said. “My ankle feels good. I made it through nine innings for the first time. With the double I didn’t even know I ran that fast. When I saw the replay, I say, ‘Oh man, I run very good.’ That’s good to see.”
And in the ninth inning with one out and Durham threatening to rally, he took a throw from relief pitcher Brad Lincoln, hopped at second and quickly turned the throw to first base to complete the double play, end the game and save the win for the Herd. That defensive play was another positive sign in Reyes’ rehabilitation.
“I need to test my ankle every way possible because when I go to the big leagues I don’t want to have no surprises there,” he said. “I want to feel like I’m able to do everything on the field.”
To get back to the big leagues, Reyes is using game action to build his confidence – in his ankle, in his body and in his game-readiness.
Reyes, a four-time All-Star and 2011 National League batting champion, suffered a severe ankle injury on April 12. Just 10 games into the season he found himself on the disabled list.
It was just this week when he got on the field for actual games, first with Single-A Dunedin and now with Buffalo.
And it was, in a word, fantastic.
“It’s a little bit getting my confidence back,” Reyes said. “Just get on the field and let it go. The more that I play, the more comfortable I’m going to feel. I’m just happy to be on the field and do what I love to do.”
Reyes sprinted out to his position at short when the Bisons took the field Friday night. The crowd of 13,169 included a number of Mets jerseys as Reyes played seven full seasons with New York before spending last year with Miami and then becoming part of a blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays in the offseason.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said that Reyes was scheduled to play all nine innings Friday and Saturday. The organization will see how Reyes feels on Sunday and likely dial back his innings. But he will still play.
In Friday’s game, Durham took leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but the Herd rallied each time.
In the second inning, Jim Negrych doubled then scored on a two-out double by Ryan Goins.
Sean Ochinko led off the fifth with a single. Reyes then strung a double off the wall in right field, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
Kevin Pillar, making his Triple-A debut with the Herd, hit what appeared to be a hit off the right field line in front of the Bisons’ bullpen, but it was called foul.
The questionable call didn’t matter as Pillar ripped the next pitch to left-center, scoring Ochinko and Reyes for a 3-2 Buffalo lead.
Pillar was added to the Herd’s roster on Friday after batting .313 with 30 runs batted in in 71 games for Double-A New Hampshire.
He went 2 for 4 with one strikeout and two RBIs, batting second in the lineup and starting at center field.
“He brings a lot to the table,” Brown said of Pillar. “He’s a good-looking young hitter. He really gets the most of his ability. He’s the kind of player you always like to watch.
“He’s always going to give 100 percent.”
Expect, however, to see Gose back in the lineup tonight.
“He’s playing tomorrow,” Brown said. “I had a good conversation with him and he’s antsy to play.”
The series continues tonight (6:05 p.m., Radio 1520, 550 AM) with righty Chad Jenkins (0-3, 11.37) scheduled to start for the Herd. It is the annual Star Wars promotion night and as of Friday night 600 tickets remained for the game. The Coca-Cola Field box office opens at noon today.