NEW YORK -- The Mets seldom deal in absolutes. They prefer to qualify their remarks and, presumably, their thinking. Jerry Manuel wears out the word "somewhat." Even when the manager announced that Jose Reyes would return to the lineup Saturday afternoon, he qualified it: "Unless he gets hit by a car," the manager said. And if Reyes had a say in that scenario, he'd play -- car or no car.

"I've been waiting for so long to be out there," Reyes said late Friday afternoon after a flight from Florida and a brief workout at Citi Field. "It would have to be a big car."

Manuel facetiously said he would bring Reyes home with him to afford him extra protection. And they wouldn't cross any streets as pedestrians.

As delighted as Reyes was when he arrived, his manager and colleagues were equally pleased by the latest development involving one of their wounded.

"We've all been thinking about him since we left Spring Training," Jeff Francoeur said. "It's gonna be great to have him back at the top of the lineup."

And at the top is where he will be. Manuel had abandoned the idea of having Reyes bat third for now. The return of Carlos Beltran probably will make a shift to the third spot less likely.

"Feels like two years," said Reyes, who last played on May 20. "I'll be a little excited, maybe a little nervous." He said his timing is "okay, not unbelievable."

He mentioned his leg -- he underwent surgery on his right hamstring tendon last year -- several times and said all is well. He had stolen bases and ran out extra-base hits before leaving Florida. He made no unsolicited mention of his thyroid. It was the elevated thyroid readings that interrupted his Spring Training and delayed his return.

He said he is well and noted his thyroid had been tested as recently as Monday.

"No more setbacks," Reyes said. He expects to play regularly. "I don't like to take days off. If I feel good, I want to play. I want to play my game. I have to play my game."