By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- After spending the previous nine seasons pacing the New York Mets, the Miami Marlins' Jose Reyes is looking forward to returning to the Big Apple.
A three-game set at Citi Field could help the reigning NL batting champion get going at the plate.
With Reyes and the rest of his team looking to break out, Miami sends Josh Johnson to the hill opposite New York's Johan Santana as these NL East rivals open their season series Tuesday night.
Reyes compiled a career-best .337 average in what turned out to be his final season with the Mets in 2011. All eyes will be on the speedy shortstop as he plays his first game back in New York since signing a six-year, $106 million deal with Miami (7-8) during the offseason.
"I can't wait to get there," the four-time All-Star told the Marlins' official website. "I think it's going to be a little bit emotional for me because it's the first time going back there after all those years.
"I have a good memory of that ballpark (and) New York City. But I'm part of a new family now. So I just have to go there and continue to play baseball and do my job helping this team to win a game."
Reyes' transition to Miami has been a bit turbulent, as he's hitting just .230 with six runs scored thus far. Reyes, though, owns a .319 career average at Citi Field - the highest mark among the 26 players with at least 100 at-bats at the ballpark.
"He was a dynamic, exciting player for us. I think he deserves a warm reception from our fans," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "I hope he gets a good reception."
The Marlins are coming off back-to-back losses at Washington, including Saturday's 3-2, 10-inning defeat. Miami, which has scored just four runs while going 1 for 27 with runners in scoring position during its four-game road losing streak, may have caught a break when Sunday's series finale was postponed.
"I'll take my chances with this ball club," manager Ozzie Guillen said. " ...We're going to hit, we're going to do the little things. Things will come around for us. We've been playing good baseball so far. Just keep playing."
Johnson (0-2, 5.94 ERA) was originally slated to pitch Sunday, but will instead take the mound against a Mets team he's generally dominated. The right-hander is 8-1 with a 2.68 ERA lifetime against New York (8-8).
After being limited to just nine starts in 2011 due to inflammation in his throwing shoulder, Johnson was tagged for nine runs and 21 hits over his first two outings. He seemed to come around during last Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs, giving up two runs and seven hits over seven innings.
"I felt really good out there," he said. "I felt the things we've been working on the timing things that I've always done and kind of gotten away from, we went back to that and it felt good out there ... Just to get deep into the game was good."
Santana (0-2, 3.97), in contrast, surrendered just one run over his first two outings before getting tagged for six over 1 1-3 innings of last Tuesday's 9-3 loss at Atlanta - his shortest career start.
"I didn't even sweat," said Santana, who hadn't gone less than three innings in his previous 265 starts. "It's just one of those things that's going to happen. I can't wait to go back out again."
Santana has to like his chances of getting back on track against Miami. The left-hander is 6-1 with a 1.47 ERA versus the Marlins - his lowest career mark against any opponent he's faced as a starter at least five times.
New York enters this matchup in the midst of a 1-5 slide after being swept in Monday's doubleheader with San Francisco by a combined 13-3. The Mets have been outscored 44-20 during their funk.
Updated April 24, 2012