Jays’ Reyes optimistic about mid-April return

Jose Reyes expressed his disappointment over having to be placed on the DL for mild inflamation in his hamstring, an injury he has history with and has learned not to play through it.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes is cautiously optimistic about a return to action in the middle of April after an MRI on Tuesday revealed only mild inflammation in his troubled left hamstring.

Reyes called the test results "a relief" and compared his current injury to one that happened with the New York Mets in 2011, when he ended up hitting the DL twice, and feels some rest now should take care of the problem.

"If I compare that with the one that happened in New York, it should be enough," he said. "I don’t want to put a date because with hamstrings you never know. (Monday) I felt good that I was going to play and you see what happens. With hamstrings you never know, you feel good and when you try to run you have a setback. So I have to be careful with it."

Debate raged Tuesday over whether the Blue Jays were careful enough with their prized shortstop by letting him play in two exhibition games at Montreal over the weekend, a suggestion manager John Gibbons bristled at.

"We wouldn’t have put him out there if we didn’t feel confident," Gibbons said. "He had a few days off, figured it was a minor thing, you’ve got to test him sooner or later, right? He came out of the games feeling good. He’d been tested on the back fields before we left and all that, it’s one of those things that happen."

Reyes made the same point, arguing that he "was able to play through it like that."

"I don’t want to say I felt great, but I felt OK to play and then I come here (Monday), feel better than I did in Montreal and you see what happened. Hamstrings are tricky man. …

"I wanted to play because I know what happened last year to me, second week of the season I went down to the DL. I don’t want that to happen, that was my thinking before the season. I want to be here for this team, helping this ball club as much as I can so hopefully it won’t be longer than two weeks but like I said I’m going to take it one day at a time, one game at a time, and go from there."

Reyes also says he doesn’t believe playing on turf is a factor. The two games in Montreal and the series in Tampa are all on artificial surfaces, as are all Blue Jays home games in Toronto.

"I don’t worry about that because last year I was able to play through it with no problems in my hamstring," he said. "The only problem that I had last year was my ankle, I didn’t have no problem with my hamstrings. My concern right now is get the hamstring right and get ready to go play baseball. I can’t be concerned about the turf because the turf is going to be there. And, everybody knows the turf is not good not just for the leg, for anybody. But like I said, the turf is going to be there, that’s our home, so I have to deal with it, find a routine so I can stay on the field and play for this team."

DIAZ FOR D: In opting for Jonathan Diaz over Munenori Kawasaki to cover for Jose Reyes, the Blue Jays decided to go with the combo up the middle that would be most sound defensively.

Part of that is keeping Ryan Goins at second, and while Chris Getz was also considered, they ultimately decided that an extra shortstop was the way to go.

"We wanted to throw our best defence out there, Diaz is the best shortstop we got, and Goins has fallen into second base," Gibbons said. "So play those two, and (Maicer) Izturis can pinch hit and fill either one of those roles as well."

A 12th-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2006, the 28-year-old made his big-league debut with the Boston Red Sox against Toronto last year (Colby Rasmus made a sliding catch to rob him of a hit). His glove is his calling card.

"That’s what’s kept me around the game for this long. I’m going to do my best to steal some hits," he said. "I want to go out there and play defence and do whatever I can to get on base for the guys to drive me in."

REPLAY REGRET: John Gibbons didn’t challenge any calls Monday but he went out to speak with umpires a couple of times while coaching assistant Sal Butera watched replays deciding whether to challenge or not.

Early impressions?

"I tell you it happened fast, first play of the game and you’re wondering," he said, alluding to a Jose Reyes popper that Desmond Jennings scooped off the ground in centre. "The only thing that did bother me about it is that it took some of the intensity out of it. You go out there in a situation you might normally argue something and … you go out to say to the ump, ‘I’m just waiting to see that guy,’ and they know, so what do you want to talk about, that kind of thing. So I think it does take some of the intensity out of it."

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