Meeting with Randolph benefits Reyes
Shortstop shines after skipper offers defensive expertise
SAN DIEGO -- Ground balls don't come any more routine than the one that bounced through Jose Reyes' legs in the third inning Wednesday afternoon in San Francisco. Routine is what it was, "easy play" is how Reyes identified it. "E-6" is how the official scorer saw it.
The error was the 10th in merely 56 games for the Mets shortstop, too many for a player who never had made committed more than 18 in a full season, too many for the man responsible.
"That's not me," Reyes would say later.
The error had come after two were out, and the run scored by the player who hit the ball Reyes misplayed, Fred Lewis, was quite unearned. And that troubled Reyes.
"I can't do that," he said.
Willie Randolph didn't disagree. So the Mets manager spoke with Reyes about it Thursday before the Mets played their first game of their four-game series against the Padres. Randolph could write a book about catching ground balls, so he shared some of his expertise with the shortstop he believes will win a National League Gold Glove one of these years.
"Footwork ... mechanics ... rhythm," was the manager's message. "I just suggested he play it more aggressive," Randolph said Friday night. "If you're moving you create a rhythm. You can't be on your heels. Jose has good hands, but you've got to have some rhythm."
When the brief pregame lesson was complete, Reyes played nine innings that were something to behold. Nothing that necessarily qualified for endless video repetition, but a flawless performance that demonstrated his many and varied defensive skills.
After the Padres scored in the third inning, they had the bases loaded when Kevin Kouzmanoff hit soft ground ball toward the middle of the diamond. Aware of Kouzmanoff's deliberate running, Reyes ranged far to his left and then unleashed a powerful throw that ended the inning.
Opposing pitcher Josh Banks was the batter with two outs and a runner on third base in the fourth. He made serious contact with Mike Pelfrey's pitch and challenged Reyes' reflexes and glove. Another inning-ender was the result.
Pelfrey loaded the bases with one out in the fifth when Kouzmanoff hit a more routine ground ball that Reyes handled cleanly. The shortstop stepped on second base and made the relay to first base without involving his double-play partner, Luis Castillo. Double play achieved, inning over.
Pelfrey, who didn't pitch a clean frame in his six-inning workday, relied on Reyes again in the sixth after the Padres put the potential tying run on second base with two outs. Pinch-hitter Tony Clark hit a hot ground ball that had legitimate base-hit aspirations until Reyes dived and intercepted it. A fourth straight inning ended with the baseball in Reyes' glove.
The seventh inning ended similarly, but with one proviso. With runners on first and second and two out, Kouzmanoff tried to test Reyes again. But before the baseball reached the glove, it glanced off the foot of Tadahito Iguchi, the runner moving from second. Iguchi was called out. And even though Reyes hadn't handled the ricochet cleanly, a second grab allowed him to put the last out in his glove again.
"I know what Willie said," he said Friday night. "I don't want to have bad days. I know I have to make plays. I'm going to be better."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.