BUFFALO, N.Y. — Many players pass through the minor leagues during an injury comeback with a reluctant sense of duty and obligation. Jose Reyes does not fit that profile.
Reyes went 1-for-4 and scored the game-winning run for the Buffalo Bisons in the first triple-A game of his rehab assignment on Friday night. He also cleanly handled three fielding chances as the Bisons won 3-2 against the Durham Bulls.
Reyes is continuing to work towards joining the Toronto Blue Jays after spraining his left ankle on April 12. The four-time all-star and 2011 National League batting champion had five hits in 12 at-bats for single-A Dunedin earlier this week, and made his Buffalo debut with obvious enthusiasm.
Reyes participated in team meetings to review signs, sprinted to his position to begin the game and pumped his fists and broadly smiled after scoring in the fifth inning. After turning a game-ending double play, he crouched down and waited for his teammates to join in a raucous celebration.
"This is what I love to do," Reyes said. "I wasn’t able to do this for a long time, almost two months. Now I’m able to do what I do best."
Reyes is expected to play with Buffalo through Sunday before being re-evaluated for a potential return to the Blue Jays on Monday at Tampa Bay.
"I was able to do a little bit of everything," Reyes said. "I’m happy that I was able to help the boys out. And the ankle felt good."
Reyes was in his customary leadoff position in the batting order and played all nine innings in the field for the first time this week. He fielded a ground ball in the second inning, caught a pop fly in the sixth and turned a game-ending double play in the ninth.
On the game-ending play, pitcher Brad Lincoln fielded a comebacker and threw to Reyes, who pivoted, jumped and delivered a sharp throw to first. It was vintage Reyes.
"That was good there," Reyes said. "I needed to test my ankle in every way possible. When I go to the big leagues, I don’t want to have any surprises there."
In his first at-bat, he grounded out to second base on the second pitch he saw. In the third inning, he forced Durham starter J.D. Martin into a 12-pitch at-bat, including six foul balls with two strikes, before popping out to shortstop.
In the fifth, Reyes lashed a sharp double to the right field wall and scored on a two-run double by Kevin Pillar, who was making his triple-A debut. Reyes’ run gave Buffalo a 3-2 lead.
Prior to that hit, however, Pillar narrowly missed on what was ruled a foul ball. Reyes had already come around from second and had to retreat, only to run hard on the next pitch.
"(On the first) double, I didn’t even know I ran that fast," Reyes said.
"When I saw the replay, I thought I ran pretty good. It was good to see."
Reyes expects to play shortstop again Saturday, which would give him back-to-back games in the field for the first time during his rehab stint.
Reyes has missed Toronto’s last 62 games with the injury, during which time the Blue Jays are 28-34.