BALTIMORE - Jose Reyes' first season in Toronto didn't go as planned. The Blue Jays didn't win as expected and Reyes was injured for much of the first half, missing 66 games with a badly sprained ankle.
Reyes sat down with TSN.ca prior to Thursday's series finale against the Orioles to discuss a variety of topics, including a response to a theory that sometimes gets floated: A team with an abundance of Latin American players doesn't win.
You can listen to the audio here.
Below is the transcript of the interview:
TSN.ca: Jose, let's start the season that has been. You spent a good portion of it injured, missed 66 games with your ankle. Where is your ankle now compared to, say, where it was when you came back at the end of June?
REYES: I'm going to say it's way better. It's close to 100 per cent. When I first started, it gave me a lot of trouble like moving around on the field. Now it seems like I'm moving around a lot better. It's getting closer but it's going to get right, like 100 per cent, in the off-season when I rest on it and hopefully come to spring training 100 per cent and do what I love to do on the field; just do everything on the field without worrying about anything.
TSN.ca: What kind of schedule are you going to have in the off-season in terms of rest, relaxation and treatment and how different will this off-season be compared to ones in your recent past just because of the injury you had?
REYES: A couple of days ago, I called my trainer, the one that I work out with in the off-season. He's got a plan for me and after the season, I'm going to take a few weeks off. I'm not going to do anything. Just family time and get the ankle to rest and my whole body and after that my trainer has a good program for me, for my lower half and strengthening my ankle. I can't wait, I can't wait to start all over again and just be healthy in spring training because I know what I can do when I'm healthy on the field.
TSN.ca: How would you describe your first year in Toronto? It was very strange because you were hurt and you missed so much time and the team certainly hasn't performed. What's this entire year been like for you, personally?
REYES: I'm going to say it's been tough. Besides that I got hurt, I've been disappointed because when we got to spring training the first day, the expectation was by this time, this team was going to be in contention. We're here with four games left in the season and we're in last place. You know, that's disappointing because of the great talent we have on this ball club. I mean, it's not acceptable to finish last but this is baseball. We understand that and hopefully next year can be better because with all the talent we have, we should be better.
TSN.ca: Is there a such thing as a season being early? Because back in April, when you guys were struggling, a lot of people would say, well, it's early. We've seen other teams have great late runs to make the playoffs in years past but next year, how important is going to be getting off to a strong start in April and May?
REYES: It's going to be important because we need to learn from what happened this year. We have to start the season good and feeling the same way. This year, we only played consistent baseball when we had the 11-game winning streak. That's the only time I feel we played consistent as a team. Other than that, I don't think we played consistent baseball.
TSN.ca: Why not? What was it? People point to pitching. Sometimes it's defence or hitting with runners in scoring position. Seemed to be a lot of things but can you put your finger on what went wrong?
REYES: Everything went wrong. Everything. As a player, I don't want to point the finger at one thing because different stuff went wrong. A lot of injuries, some key players got hurt and stuff like that and we didn't perform the way we should perform on the field. That was the key and like I said, if you don't play consistent baseball, especially in the division that we are, you're going to be in trouble.
TSN.ca: And about the American League East. You're a career National League East guy until this year. I know you saw a lot of the AL East in interleague play over a number of years but what's your general impression of this division and how different is it playing in it than only playing it on occasion?
REYES: For me, now that I'm playing in this division, this is the hardest division in baseball. Every team in this division is tough. Good pitching, great hitting, it's tough. You're not allowed to start the season in April and play bad baseball because that's going to hurt you in September. Out of the gate, you have to come out and play good baseball if you want to compete.
TSN.ca: Jose, this is not necessarily a comfortable topic but there is a perception in some circles that a team that has as many Latin American players as the Blue Jays do may struggle to succeed. Whether that is ignorant or whether that is fact is certainly not up for me to decide but I want your opinion. What is your reaction to people who may throw that suggestion out?
REYES: I don't believe in that. I don't believe in that. In 2006 in New York, we were one game from going to the World Series and we had like 15 Latin ballplayers on that ball club and the chemistry was unbelievable. We were one game away from going to the World Series. If you look at other teams around, like the Tigers, if you count how many Latin players they have, they have a lot, too. There are a lot of teams who have a lot of Latin players. That has nothing to do with how you perform on the field, how many Latin players you have. If you come out, no matter where you're from, if you're Latin American, you've got one thing to do is play baseball and enjoy it and try to do your job. It doesn't matter how many Latin guys you have in your clubhouse.
TSN.ca: How important is clubhouse chemistry in general? It seems like you guys have done a great job of sticking together this year but how important in general, in such an individualistic sport, when you're out there on the field, how important is it for the 25 guys in that room to get along as best they can?
REYES: It's the key, that's the key. I think we have unbelievable chemistry. That wasn't our problem, the chemistry because everybody got along good in this clubhouse. Chemistry is something you need because you're going to spend more time here, like, I'm going to say, than with your family. This is your second family. You're going to be together here for like six, seven months and that's a lot of time so you have to get along with the boys if you want to be successful on the field.
TSN.ca: Is that something you've taken pride in over the course of your career? You seem to be a guy who can bounce around to any corner of that clubhouse, at any point in the day, and joke and laugh with someone.
REYES: That's the way that I am. That's nothing new for me. I've been like that since I was born, I think. I've been like that since the minor leagues. Guys like to be around me because I'm always happy. I'm always happy, I always have a lot of energy and I like to bring positive energy to the ball club that I play with and go from there. When I step on the field, I like to enjoy the game as much as I can but at the same time, I know that I have a job to do which is to put my team in a good position to win a game every single day and every single night.
TSN.ca: Looking ahead to spring training next year, I talked to Mark DeRosa about this last week, and he said that he agreed with John Gibbons' and the coaching staff's approach this previous spring training. So many new guys from so many different organizations, it was best to take a hands off approach and allow you guys to get ready at your own pace, the way that you were used to doing it. But Mark said, based on performance this year, you guys have lost the right to do it the same way next spring. Do you anticipate a lot of changes in the team-wide approach when you report to Dunedin next February?
REYES: Probably. The way that we played, we think there are going to be some changes in spring training. It's always good to make some changes, especially the way we played this year and there was a lot of stuff that we didn't do right on the field. It's something that we need to address. Hopefully when we come to spring training, we don't have to worry about so many different things and just continue to play baseball. Hopefully, next year will be better because it's good to be this late in the season competing. That's all about baseball, winning. I'm tired every year to go home and seeing some other ball club in the playoffs. I want to be part of that.
TSN.ca: How much fun is it playing next to Brett Lawrie on the left side of that infield?
REYES: It's unbelievable. I enjoy playing beside Brett. When the team put him at second base, I don't know what they were thinking about, to be honest with you. I think, defensive-wise, he's one of the best, if not the best at third base. He's good. I've played with him for a little bit now and I've had the opportunity to watch him, how he approaches the game, he works hard in batting practice and stuff like that. He's a guy who has a lot of energy but he's one of the best defensive guys at third base that I've ever seen. It's unbelievable how well he can play that position.
TSN.ca: Just in closing, over the last five or six weeks, have you seen some positive trends, some positive things happen on the field that would lead you to believe – I'm thinking a lot about defence and you and Brett playing together is part of that – have you seen some things that give you confidence that this team can, in fact, get off to the start that it needs to get off to in 2014?
REYES: There's no doubt. Right now, we have some key players on the DL like Edwin and Bautista. They're huge for this ball club. When we have everybody together, as a team, I think right now because the talent is still here and everybody is still young here, we just need to put it on the field and don't worry about anything else. Just focus and do our job and everybody contribute and go from there.
TSN.ca: Might it be nice next year, when you show up to spring training, that you're not going to be the national darlings? You can just go about your business and maybe the whole world won't be picking you to win the World Series. You can sneak up on people.
REYES: I don't think everything that people said this year, oh the Blue Jays are going to go to the World Series, I don't think that got to our heads. We know there were a lot of high expectations on our ball club but this is baseball. In baseball, you never know what is going to happen. There are some other good ball clubs that are going to go home at the same time that we do. In baseball, it's crazy, you never know what's going to happen. Next year, I can't wait for next year. This year isn't over yet and I'm already excited about next year.
TSN.ca: Jose, thanks for this. Good of you to do it.
REYES: Thank you. Thank you.