Mets Activate Reyes and Matsui From DL

Friday, September 24th 2004, 8:15 pm
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui will have to wait about a week before they switch positions in the New York Mets' infield.

Both were activated from the disabled list Friday, and Reyes was in the starting lineup at shortstop against the Chicago Cubs.

Matsui, out since Aug. 9 with a strained back, was only available to pinch-hit. While he has been working out at second base at the Mets' minor league facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., the past four days, he will play shortstop when he returns to the lineup _ he should see a few innings Saturday.

``Kaz will be at short until the last few games, then we'll go the other way _ probably in the last series,'' Mets manager Art Howe said. ``He doesn't feel ready yet. We feel he can use this time to get ready.''

The oft-injured Reyes went on the disabled for the second time this season _ the third stint of his two-year career _ on Aug. 13 with a stress fracture in his left leg. He was on the DL from March 15 until June 19 with a strained right hamstring. He only played 44 games before Friday.

``It's been a tough year for me,'' Reyes said. ``A lot has happened. I just have to put it behind me.''

Reyes agreed to switch from his natural position of shortstop to second base after the Mets brought Matsui over from Japan and signed him to a $20.1 million, three-year contract last winter.

But Matsui struggled to adjust to the faster pace of major league games and made 23 errors. The Mets began to talk about flip-flopping him with Reyes, who sparkled at shortstop during his abbreviated rookie campaign in 2003.

The Mets made the decision several weeks ago to make the switch next season, and Reyes and Matsui began practicing together last week in Florida.

``The benefit of him being on the DL is that he could work out full-time at second base,'' Mets general manager Jim Duquette said. ``He worked the last four days with (minor league coach) Edgar Alfonzo and our instructional guys, and the reports were real positive.''

Reyes was impressed by the progress of his teammate, but Matsui is still not entirely comfortable at his new position.

``Turning the double play is very difficult,'' Matsui said. ``I don't think there is something easy at second base right now.''

Howe said Matsui will use the next week to continue working at second and probably will play there beginning next Friday, when the Montreal Expos come to Shea Stadium for the final three games of the season.

Long out of the playoff race, the Mets decided to let Reyes and Matsui play during the last nine games to help their confidence _ despite the risk of further injury.

``Anytime you have questions about an injury, you'd like to have that assessed before the offseason,'' Duquette said.

Reyes and Matsui will follow workout programs during the offseason. Reyes will concentrate on strengthening his legs and play about a half-season of winter ball in the Dominican Republic to get more at-bats.

Matsui will return from Japan ``sometime prior to the holidays,'' according to Duquette, to work with Mets coaches on the transition to second base.

In other news, Mets reliever Mike DeJean has a broken right leg. He was hit by a line drive on Aug. 19 and went on the DL on Aug. 30. DeJean was not responding to treatment and had an MRI and X-ray on Monday, revealing the break.