PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The most recent Mets player to transition from shortstop to center field, Juan Lagares, did it as successfully as just about anyone in history. Once so bedeviled that he committed 40 errors in 82 games as a Minor League shortstop, Lagares moved to center and
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The most recent Mets player to transition from shortstop to center field, Juan Lagares, did it as successfully as just about anyone in history. Once so bedeviled that he committed 40 errors in 82 games as a Minor League shortstop, Lagares moved to center and won a Gold Glove Award seven years later.
So when Jose Reyes began tossing around the idea of shifting to center field, he sought out the Mets' resident guru.
"You have to be ready to run," Lagares told him.
"Well, I'm healthy," Reyes replied. "So I'm looking for the challenge."
If the Mets have their way this summer, Reyes won't be needed much at his primary positions of shortstop or third base, where Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright are the starters. That would force the Mets to use Reyes in alternative ways, seeking to keep his bat atop their lineup three to four times per week.
Enter center field into the equation.
"It's a new position for me," Reyes said. "Last year was a little different, because I moved to third base. Third base is in the infield. Now, it's the outfield, so it's not the same. But I've got the right mindset. I'm going to work every day and try to go from there. I try not to put too much stuff in my head. Whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to be open to doing it."
In truth, Reyes still figures to receive most of his reps on the left side of the infield. Even if healthy, Wright is unlikely to play more than four or five times per week at third base -- and Wright's health remains one of the most significant questions at Mets camp this spring. Reyes should also fill in plenty at shortstop, considering Cabrera's struggles to keep his knees healthy. And he'll take his share of ground balls this spring at second base, knowing Neil Walker is coming off back surgery.
So there's a chance this center-field experiment won't happen at all. But the Mets crave versatility up and down their roster, and Reyes is still one of the most athletic players in camp, even at age 33.
"I told [Reyes], 'You fit into exactly what we're trying to push here, and that is some versatility,'" manager Terry Collins said. "'It's about getting you at-bats throughout the summer.'"
This versatility could ultimately be important to the Mets' success. Last year, their backup plan at third base was Wilmer Flores, who did not distinguish himself defensively in limited time there. Shortly after Wright suffered a season-ending neck injury, the Mets signed Reyes, whom the Rockies released following a 51-game suspension under Major League Baseball's Joint Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy.
Included in Reyes' contract was a clause allowing the Mets to retain team control over him for a league-minimum salary in 2017. The move wound up being prescient, considering all the injuries to New York's infield.
For Reyes, it also represented a second chance. A Met from 2003-11, Reyes thought he would never return to New York after signing with the Marlins that winter. Now home again, Reyes' goal is to spend at least some time at shortstop alongside Wright, reuniting the Mets' one-time All-Star infielders.
"I can't wait for that to happen," Reyes said. "I never imagined that I was going to be in this situation, be here, play a game with the New York Mets and be here with D-Wright. He's my big brother. We've got a lot of love for each other. Just to be here in the same locker room with him, I still can't believe it."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.