Reyes and Nickeas are Battling Backstops

Reyes and Nickeas are Battling Backstops

The life of a maturing catcher travels along a steep learning curve. For Jose Reyes and Mike Nickeas, patience and education are enormous virtues. The two battery mates caught up with Inside Pitch to discuss how they have evolved this young season.

Jose Reyes dives in right field, but misses the pop fly. He quickly rises and with a smile, swipes his arms in front of him as an umpire would to indicate no catch. It's an hour after the game, called off for the fourth straight day due to unplayable conditions (today, third base was too wet), was supposed to start.

But outside of the hot corner the field—and the sky—looks great, and having already warmed up, Reyes and platoon-partner Mike Nickeas are working on pop-ups in the outfield, coming out of the squat and making the catch. Just being on the field is becoming a rarity for both.

Combined with the early season rainouts and the nature of sharing time, Nickeas and Reyes have not been able to find their rhythm and consistency: entering Thursday, Reyes was batting .172 in 29 at-bats, while Nickeas has an average of .154 in 26 at-bats. Neither has driven in a run and they only have one extra base hit apiece.

"The weather's obviously a factor," said minor league catching coordinator Bob Natal. But neither backstop is an offensive juggernaut to begin with.

"I think defense has been something that's come more naturally to me, but I don't like to peg myself in one of those arenas either way," Nickeas said of whether he was more of an offensive or defensive catcher. Reyes also said he is "a better thrower" than hitter.

Said Natal of what he saw in Nickeas in spring training, "his defense is pretty solid … he seems to be a capable thrower with good receiving skills … Basically the same thing [with Reyes]."

Not only are their skill sets similar, their ages are too: both are 24 years old and they were born within two weeks of eachother. And both have the same goal for their time at Binghamton.

"I'm working right now on really seeing the ball; trusting my hands and seeing the ball," Nickeas said. "Working on hitting," Reyes dittoed.

Reyes received publicity in spring training—he was a non-roster invitee—because he shares a name with the Mets' star shortstop, Jose Bernabe Reyes. The B-Mets' catcher is Jose Ariel Reyes. "The fans confused me with Jose [B.] Reyes, he wears No. 7, I got No. 77. Everybody called me ‘Hey Jose, Jose, want to sign my ball,' I said ‘Ok, but I'm not that Jose Reyes.'"

Reyes saw Major League time last September with the Cubs. Nickeas came over to the Mets at the end of August last season for outfielder Victor Diaz.

"It was nice to know that a team wants you and thinks you can play," Nickeas said. When Nickeas was traded he was hitting .394 over his last 10 games. It's known what he and Reyes can do defensively, and they've shown at times the prowess they have offensively.

Now, as Binghamton's weather warms up, they'll have to find ways to warm their bats up consistently, despite not playing every day.

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