Excited about the Toronto Blue Jays’ six-game win streak and how the starting pitching rotation seems to have turned things around?
Now, imagine energetic leadoff hitter Jose Reyes blazing on the basepaths and showing off his gap power.
Reyes’s major league return is expected soon, perhaps this weekend against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, after he began his rehabilitation assignment Monday night with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliate in Dunedin, Fla.
The 30-year-old Reyes, who suffered a severe ankle sprain on an awkward slide into second base in an April 12 game at Kansas City, had two hits in three at-bats and played five innings at shortstop.
Blue Jays teammate Brandon Morrow was on the mound for Dunedin in his first game action since exiting his start against Atlanta on May 28 after two innings with forearm tightness, but his start wasn’t as encouraging.
He allowed three runs (all earned) on five hits, including a solo home run to Florida State League rookie first baseman Saxon Butler in a 6-4 win over the Tampa Yankees. Morrow lasted just two innings, in part because he was on a 40- to 50-pitch limit, but also because he had a setback in his recovery and will have his forearm re-examined.
"His forearm is still bothering him and they're backing him off that rehab," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Tuesday.
Reyes singled and scored in his first two at-bats against Tampa starter Bryan Mitchell, who was ranked 15th among New York Yankees prospects by MLB.com entering this season.
The speedster is further along in his recovery than expected as the original timetable had Reyes sidelined for at least three months.
The upbeat Dominican sat idle for the first month after getting hurt, sporting a cast for two weeks and a walking boot for another 14 days. From there, rehab included light jogging and hitting soft toss to jogging on a treadmill and running on a field.
On Friday, Reyes played two innings and had three plate appearances at Toronto’s minor league complex in Dunedin and performed sliding drills afterward, according to Gibbons.
Toronto summoned Japanese shortstop Munenori Kawasaki from the minors to fill in for Reyes and he has hit .219 with 14 runs batted in over 54 games.
'If I feel like I can help this club at 85, 90 per cent, I’m going to be on the field.'— Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes
Reyes, a four-time all-star who was acquired from Miami in a 12-player trade last November, hit at a .395 clip with a .465 on-base percentage and five stolen bases in his first 10 games as a Blue Jay.
"I’m still going to have my stuff. I’m very confident in myself that I’m going to come back stronger," Reyes told reporters recently, adding he plans to wear a brace for the balance of his baseball career to stabilize the ankle.
"If I feel like I can help this club at 85, 90 per cent [health], I’m going to be on the field."
That might be the case this weekend if Reyes is called upon when the Jays open a stretch of 10 games against AL East rivals Baltimore (three games), Tampa Bay (three) and Boston (four). They are 12-20 this season versus their division opponents but probably will need a minimum of six victories in this stretch to get people talking about a possible playoff run.
On Monday, Toronto snapped a scoreless tie with two runs in the eighth inning to pull out a 2-0 win over visiting Colorado in interleague action and improve to 33-36 on the season.
Josh Johnson blanked the Rockies over 7 1/3 innings in his third strong start since returning from injury. Despite stellar work of late from the likes of Mark Buehrle, Esmil Rogers, R.A. Dickey and newcomer Chien-Ming Wang, the Jays remained 28th of 30 teams in the majors with a 4.89 starters' earned-run average entering Tuesday's action.
Morrow, 28, is 2-3 with a 5.63 ERA in 10 starts this season and his struggles could have been related to the forearm injury.
"We don’t want to rush it," Gibbons said. "He’s got to show us he’s good and healthy."
Morrow has shown a little of both in his three-plus seasons in Toronto. Much was expected this season after Morrow’s breakout season of 2012 during which he won 10 games and fashioned a 2.96 ERA in 21 starts while dealing with an oblique (rib cage) strain. But he also battled back pain earlier this season and had trouble getting loose during games.
Reyes is expected to complete his rehab stint at a higher level of the minors by the end of the week, namely with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats or triple-A Buffalo Bisons.