NEW YORK (AP) — Jose Reyes had good reason to flash that big, infectious grin Tuesday night: He was back in the New York Mets lineup.
The All-Star shortstop was activated from the 15-day disabled list for the opener of a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals after he missed more than two weeks because of a left hamstring strain.
Right fielder Carlos Beltran also returned Tuesday after he sat out three games with the flu.
"I'm happy, excited. Can't wait to get back on the field," Reyes said. "It's great to have Carlos, too. My job is to get on base for the guys behind me."
Reyes has been out since straining his left hamstring on July 2, and the Mets went 6-6 without their electrifying catalyst. New York has lost three of four since the All-Star break.
The Mets offered a special $7 ticket for Tuesday's game in honor of No. 7's return, and fans let out a big cheer when Reyes ran onto the field about 30 minutes before gametime.
Reyes flied out to left in his first at-bat.
Having watched his team struggle at the plate the last two games, Mets manager Terry Collins was eager to see his star at the top of his lineup.
"It's a huge plus for us," Collins said. "It's a boost of energy."
Leading the majors with a .354 average and 15 triples, Reyes was diagnosed with a Grade 1 hamstring strain, the mildest form, and he went on the disabled list five days after being hurt.
Being overly cautious with Reyes because of his history of leg injuries, the Mets didn't reinstate him when he was eligible Monday. Instead, they had him play a rehabilitation game for Class-A Brooklyn to test the leg.
He doubled in three at-bats and played six innings at shortstop.
Collins said he would monitor his speedster throughout Tuesday's game, especially with temperatures in the high 80s-low 90s.
"I don't think there's any question that at times I will be holding my breath," Collins said. "If he hits the ball in the gap, I'll be holding my breath."
In the final season of his contract, Reyes is having an MVP-caliber season and he led the surprising Mets to the fringe of wild-card contention before getting hurt.
He returns at a crucial period for the ballclub, one in which general manager Sandy Alderson has said will determine how active the Mets will be as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. Reyes could be one of the players to move, though it's unlikely.
With diminished revenue and a $1 billion lawsuit pending in the Bernard Madoff scandal, the Mets might not be able to afford the 28-year-old Reyes, their most popular and best player. Reyes can become a free agent after this season.
But Reyes said the possibility of being traded — or seeing teammates go — doesn't affect him.
"I don't put pressure on myself," Reyes said. "I need to do my job and get on base and do the job I did in the first half."
Beltran said he lost five pounds over the past three days in which he had a fever that reached 105 degrees. He received intravenous fluids on Sunday and was feeling better Monday night, available to pinch-hit.
He took early batting practice and was satisfied with the results despite still being congested.
"I feel pretty good," he said. "Fell the ball has been going off the bat good."
He hit his 29th double in the first inning Tuesday.
Also, catcher Josh Thole was put on the paternity leave list to be with his wife, who is due to give birth. Mike Nickeas was supposed to join the team from Triple-A Buffalo but couldn't make it in time Tuesday, leaving the Mets with just Ronny Paulino at catcher.
Ike Davis, meanwhile, told a group of Long Island campers earlier Tuesday that he was resigned to not playing this season because of his injured ankle.
When told of Davis' comments, Collins appeared upset saying, "I'm surprised he would say something like that."
Davis later told reporters, "I'm not throwing in the towel. In three weeks if I'm not healthy, I'm not playing this year."
Davis injured his ankle in a collision with teammate David Wright on May 10 and had a cortisone shot last week. He will have season-ending surgery if the shot doesn't give him enough relief to play.