Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Perfect timing for Reyes' return

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TORONTO -- Jose Reyes' impending return to the Toronto Blue Jays' lineup is coming at a nearly perfect time.

Manager John Gibbons said on Friday that as the all-star shortstop was rehabbing with Toronto's triple-A team in Buffalo, N.Y., the Blue Jays were putting themselves in a position to welcome him back.

"The talk has been since he went down, amongst us, amongst (the media) that if we can get back to .500 by the time he gets back then that's pretty good," said Gibbons before Friday night's 7-6 win over the Baltimore Orioles pulled the team's record to .500 at 36-36. "We're close to doing that. I mean, we're not there yet, but that could happen and then he just adds to it."

Toronto has won nine straight. The Blue Jays are hosting the Orioles in a three-game series.

Reyes was hitting .395 with a home run, five runs batted in, five runs and five stolen bases in 10 games when he sprained his left ankle on April 12.

"He's one of the premier players in the game. Just all the different things he can do," said Gibbons. "I know everyone will be glad to get him back, regardless."

On Wednesday Gibbons suggested that Reyes may be back as soon as Monday when Toronto plays the Rays in Tampa Bay. He didn't sound as certain on Friday.

"It's not too far off. We'll see how he does this weekend, we'll kind of see where we're at."

Added Gibbons: "He's going to play nine innings tonight (Friday), nine tomorrow and then Sunday's a day game, so that'd be his first day game after a night game.

"(Friday) will be a good test -- nine innings -- and definitely after (Saturday)."

Gibbons told media on Friday that Reyes would play all three minor league games in the field.

"We got to make sure he's good and ready," said the manager.

Reyes will reclaim the leadoff spot in Toronto's batting order when he returns.

"He'll definitely be at the top, we're not sure what we're going to do after that yet," said Gibbons.

Gibbons wasn't concerned about any kind of expectations affecting Reyes' performance.

"I don't think he feels any pressure. I don't think he's that kind of player," said Gibbons. "He just goes out there and has fun. Excels, you know. One guy can't do it all. One guy can make a big difference, but one guy alone can't.

"But he can make a nice difference,"

Although Toronto's been rolling in its last 15 games, winning 13, Gibbons was upbeat about Reyes' return.

"He's a key part of this team. When he went down he was doing it all," said Gibbons. "But I tip my hat to the guys that've filled in, (Munenori) Kawasaki in particular, done a great job. He really has."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2013 C9

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