Jose Reyes was a big hit with fans in his return to New York.
The longtime Mets star received a warm welcome from the crowd and played errorless defense at a new position Sunday in his first minor league game since rejoining the organization.
Reyes, a popular shortstop with the Mets from 2003-11, was released by the Colorado Rockies after serving a 59-day suspension earlier this season for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. When the suspension was over, it was clear that the Rockies would not retain his services, particularly in light of the success of rookie shortstop Trevor Story.
Reyes was hitless in three at-bats for the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones against Hudson Valley. He batted leadoff and was removed after six innings at third base.
The 33-year-old Reyes signed a minor league contract with New York on Saturday.
Some fans in the Coney Island crowd of 7,851 wore Mets jerseys with Reyes’ name on the back. The switch-hitting speedster was cheered during pregame introductions and given a partial standing ovation the first time he came to bat.
“It was amazing,” Reyes said. “I have to be honest with you guys, I was a little bit nervous there. A little emotional. I didn’t know what to expect, but it seemed like the people still love me. I know some people out there, a lot of people, are going to be hard on me and I respect that. I understand I put myself in that situation. … It was a terrible mistake.”
A brief “Jo-se, Jo-se!” chant, heard often in Queens during his Mets tenure, broke out before Reyes flailed at a low changeup for strike three in the first inning.
“He served his suspension. His wife seems to have stood by him. Nobody knows what goes on in somebody’s private life and if she can forgive him the fans should be able to forgive him,” said 30-year-old Nicole Giambarrese of Staten Island. “I’m not saying we should give him a bye and I’m not saying what he did was right, but I think he deserves a second chance.”
With Mets general manager Sandy Alderson in attendance, Reyes played his first competitive game in two weeks. He struck out, grounded softly to third and reached on a fielder’s choice when his high popup was misplayed by Renegades third baseman Jim Haley.
In the field, Reyes caught two popups, one in foul ground, and ended the sixth by cleanly snagging a routine grounder. He had never played anywhere besides the middle infield during his professional career.
The four-time All-Star primarily has played shortstop throughout his 13 years in the majors, but the Mets plan to use Reyes elsewhere on the diamond — perhaps even the outfield.
With third baseman David Wright sidelined for what might be the remainder of the season following neck surgery, the 2011 NL batting champion could see significant time at the hot corner.
“Today was good. Two popups, one groundball. I can’t complain,” Reyes said. “I don’t know about outfield because I haven’t played yet, but my body’s fine. When you’re coming home, it doesn’t matter what room you sleep in because you’re going to be comfortable because you’re home. It doesn’t matter what position I’m going to play here because I’m going to feel comfortable and I’m going to feel happy.”
Reyes sported his familiar No. 7 and a blue-and-orange Mets helmet in lieu of the double-flap model typically worn in the minors.
The Cyclones said they sold 2,500 tickets in 24 hours after the Mets announced Reyes would debut Sunday in Brooklyn.
Reyes batted .303 (10 for 33) with two homers, seven runs, seven walks and three steals in a nine-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque before the Rockies designated him for assignment June 15.