No winter ball for Reyes

The Mets will not allow Jose Reyes to participate in winter ball, harboring concerns about their shortstop's health as the 2007 season approaches.

"Reyes is an important part of our team," Mets general manager Omar Minaya told Ch. 37 in the Dominican Republic Saturday, according to the Associated Press. "That's why the Mets organization decided that he will not play. We want to keep him healthy for the next season."

Reyes, 23, had expressed interest in playing in the Dominican Winter League for the Cibao Gigantes. Reyes last played for Cibao in 2004, when he batted .302 in 29 Dominican Winter League contests.

Now one of the more dynamic players in the Major Leagues, Reyes batted .300 with 19 home runs, 81 RBI and 68 stolen bases in 153 games for New York last season.

He also participated in a Major League Baseball All-Star tour of Japan - along with Mets teammates David Wright, John Maine and Julio Franco - in November.

Minaya is in the Dominican Republic on a scouting trip that will take him to a Winter League All-Star Game, on a tour of potential sites for the next Mets training complex and to check in on outfielder Fernando Martinez, 18, and catcher Francisco Pena, 16.

'Tis the season: Wright will serve as Santa Claus for local schoolchildren during the Mets' annual holiday party Wednesday at Shea Stadium.

The Mets have had three Santas in the last three years: John Franco, Mike Cameron and Kris Benson, none of which were with the club the following season. Wright appears to be a safe bet to snap that trend.

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