Nobody is able to predict the exact date leadoff hitter Jose Reyes will return to the Blue Jays’ lineup, but two things can be stated with certainty.
First, that the switch-hitting shortstop is headed to Florida on Wednesday to begin a rehab stint.
Second, he will once again adopt exclusively the head-first slide into bases rather than the feet first that led to his grotesquely sprained ankle on April 12.
Reyes was out early Tuesday afternoon on the grass at U.S. Cellular Field bounding around the outfield with undisguised glee, like a dog chasing a frisbee, stopping to talk to teammates and opponents alike, then heading to the cage at home plate, simulating a swing and sprinting down the line to first.
“Everything feels good today, so I’m going to head down to Florida tomorrow and go from there,” Reyes said, smiling in front of his locker. “I think on Friday — the trainers know better — they have a plan set up for me. I think on Friday or Saturday I’m going to play a simulated game there. Two days, I think. After that if I feel good, we decide what we’re going to do next.”
What they could do next after the upcoming weekend is begin a rehab option of up to two weeks, likely starting out with Class-A Dunedin, then maybe in Triple-A Buffalo, allowing him to play in real game action until they feel Reyes can do more than just run the bases in controlled situations and until his timing returns on his dynamic batting stroke.
“How long it would take I don’t know, but I would say maybe a couple of weeks he’s got to play,” manager John Gibbons suggested. “But that could change, too. I don’t think that’s unrealistic. He’s moving around good, but he still hasn’t played in a game and he’s not as quick to first. And we haven’t seen him running all out and hit a bag wrong and things like that. It could be sooner but two weeks doesn’t seem too long for me. We’ve got to ease him into it, too, it’s not like he’s going to go out there and play nine innings.”
It can’t be overstated the value that Reyes can have to this team, both on the field and in the clubhouse and over the next four seasons of his contract. After the ankle injury in Kansas City, he remained with the team for a few games the next homestand before heading out for rest and rehabilitation both in Florida and at his New York area home. But his presence is important to players like Emilio Bonifacio and Melky Cabrera, and as a balance to the leadership intensity of Jose Bautista.