BUFFALO – Ambiorix Concepcion called his buddy Jose Reyes over to view an MLB.com video on Monday afternoon.
There Reyes, currently the second most popular shortstop in the Blue Jays system, looked at his April 12 slide into second base in Kansas City.
“Wow, it looked bad,” said Reyes, before the Buffalo Bisons lost 7-1.
The post-game clubhouse was a flurry of activity as players feasted on a meal supplied by Reyes and hurried to sleep fast for a 5 a.m. Buffalo-Atlanta flight for a series against the Gwinnett Braves in Georgia.
Any change from before the game?
“I spoke to Alex (Anthopoulos, general manager) after by phone,” said Reyes with his impish grin.
Then, his cell, which only leaves his hand when he’s at shortstop, rang.
“Hello Mike?” Reyes said.
Mike Shaw is the Jays travelling secretary who books flights amongst his other large portfolio.
Then, Buffalo trainer Voon Chong, who doubles as the Bisons travelling secretary, was on the phone.
“I’m going somewhere,” said the man with the twinkling eyes.
Prior to the game the plan was for Reyes to fly to Boston Tuesday, play for double-A New Hampshire on Wednesday and then join the Jays in Boston.
So are you going to Tampa?
“We’ll see, I have to make another phone call,” giggled Reyes.
After two hits and an RBI single in his seventh rehab game, this one in front of GM Anthopoulos and assistant GM Andrew Tinninsh, it is now for sure the most exciting position player in the Jays system — including Munenori Kawasaki — will return to the lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays.
When Reyes was injured there were concerns his season was over. News was better a few days later (“back by the all-star break”). He worked hard rehabbing at extended spring, class-A Dunedin and at Buffalo.
In all, he missed 68 games (Jays were 4-6 with him, 34-31 without him) and he’ll be back the final 23 games before the break.
The last day Reyes travelled with the Jays was Chien-Ming Wang’s debut at U.S. Cellular in Chicago, Game 1 of the streak. Now, Reyes joins a team looking to start another winning streak after their 11-game run ended Monday.
But back to the pre-game video?
Did Reyes cringe?
Reyes asked the meaning of the word.
After making a painful face and hunching my shoulders he nodded yes, saying: “I watched a little, then turned it off.”
Concepcion came up with Reyes in the New York Mets system and is “like my brother, with me all the time since retiring,” said Reyes of the man with the eye for gruesome footage.
Reyes was stealing second with two out and Melky Cabrera at the plate in the sixth inning. Reyes thought Cabrera had swung and missed the 0-2 pitch, only to sneak a peek and see Royals catcher Salvador Perez come up throwing.
“I always go head first, but I got caught in between trying to decide and slid late,” Reyes said.
That could have been the tombstone on the Jays season:
HE SLID LATE!
“You have to decide one way or another: head first or feet first, slide late and you get hurt,” said Reyes, pulling on his blue Under Armour short with the red and yellow Superman logo after a pre-game session in the trainer’s room.
Thinking back to that day on the dirt at Kauffman Stadium, Reyes remembers trainer George Poulis asking him to move his left ankle.
“I thought my season was over,” said Reyes, who broke down in tears lying on his back.
Now, he’s 100%, although he admits he was hesitant at first stealing bases at extended spring.
“I was OK going straight ahead, accelerating,” he said. “It was after I slowed down and touched the base. But that will come back. I need to understand how much time I missed.”
Now 77 games after being carried off the field he’ll lead off against lefty Matt Moore.
“He looks ready to me, he’s stolen a base, has been going on a couple of other times (the pitch was fouled back), and he hit a double,” said Anthony Gose, noting Reyes played 13 innings of Buffalo’s 14-inning, 1-0 win over the Durham Bulls on Sunday.
Reyes’ final game in Buffalo had Ricky Romero on the mound as the lefty gave up five runs in 3 1/3 innings.
“We’ve been consistent, playing solid defence and hitting well, but the big thing has been the starting pitching,” said Reyes. “You could tell in May we were going to win a lot of games.”
Reyes credits Edwin Encarnacion as the most important figure in the Jays lineup with his 20 homers and his suggestion to play third in Texas to get Adam Lind into the lineup, since Bautista was at the DH spot.
“It says a lot when you have a teammate like Edwin, who puts the team first,” Reyes said.
He recalled the series before the Jays headed to K.C. and what Jose Bautista said after a 7-3 loss to the Tigers in Detroit dropped the Jays to 2-5: “Let’s put this in perspective, it’s seven games. If we were 5-2 would that guarantee us a post-season spot? No.”
Nearby reliever Jeremy Jeffress was grilling two meat patties and frying two eggs to insert into his two cheese burgers (“like momma taught me,” said Jeffress) while others munched on peanut butter and jam sandwiches or ate Doritos.
The post-game, spread was different: Reyes forked over his credit card for steak and shrimp, an estimated $1,200 bill, for players, coaches and trainers from Pettibone’s the restaurant inside Coca-Cola Field.
Earlier in the home stand he ordered in from P.F. Chang’s. During his three games at Dunedin he ordered steak and Bloomin’ Onion from The Outback.
“Dunedin was fun, I was there when they clinched a playoff berth, the third baseman will play in the majors,” said Reyes, speaking of Andy Burns, just as Darren Oliver did his rehab. Burns is now in New Hampshire.
“Our goal is to win the division,” said Reyes, “not a wild-card berth.”
Two weeks ago even Kawasaki would have laughed at that one.
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