Home Sports ‘Serious’ Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Opening Day

‘Serious’ Yoenis Cespedes should be ready for Opening Day

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The true test won’t come until he returns to camp, but with less than a week until pitchers and catchers report to Citi Field, the Mets are bullish on Yoenis Cespedes’ chances of cracking the Opening Day lineup.

“I think there is a strong chance he is going to be ready once the 60-game season starts,” a club source said Wednesday. “And having his bat in the lineup, that is special.”

The two-year anniversary of Cespedes’ last appearance with the Mets is July 20. Three or four days later, depending on MLB’s yet-to-be-released schedule, the Mets open the season.

When spring training was suspended in March, the 34-year-old outfielder was taking live batting practice and shagging flies, but still hadn’t demonstrated he could run the bases. Cespedes underwent separate surgeries to remove heel calcifications in 2018. While still rehabbing from those surgeries in May 2019, he sustained right ankle fractures during an encounter with a wild boar on his ranch.

The incident with the wild boar led Cespedes to taking a significant hit financially. Instead of risking that an arbitrator would void his contract, Cespedes agreed to a restructured deal that guaranteed him only $6 million for this season as he prepares for free agency. He was originally slated to receive $29.5 million. The shortened season will leave Cespedes and all others to receive prorated salaries. Cespedes also has $18 million in incentives in his contract that are now prorated.

Yoenis Cespedes
Yoenis CespedesAnthony J Causi

“[Cespedes] is serious,” the source said. “A lot of stuff happened to him with his contract and he came to spring training on a mission. There was a lot of doubt he would be ready for the season, but I think this whole COVID-19 situation, it gave him a lot of time to heal up and be able to do stuff.”

The implementation of the universal DH for this season leaves the Mets with an opportunity to insert Cespedes into that spot, reducing the stress on his legs. Cespedes owns an .851 OPS in 84 career games as a DH. As a left fielder, his career OPS is .806.

But despite Cespedes’ strong numbers as a DH, the source cautioned the player might not embrace the role on a steady basis. Previously as a DH, Cespedes had the habit of leaving the dugout and roaming back to the clubhouse. The new rules instituted will prohibit players from leaving the dugout between at-bats.

“A lot of guys are going to have to sit and watch the game now,” the source said. “A lot of guys are going to have to focus on the game where in the past guys would run in and out of the video rooms and do certain things. I think with this setup you might see some guys learning a little more about the game, although it’s going to be a different environment. It’s going to be strange. No fans in the stands. It’s going to be strange.”

The real test about Cespedes’ readiness won’t come until he is exposed to game situations and tests his legs. The Mets are expected to play intrasquad scrimmages before finishing camp with three exhibition games.

“He went home, worked hard, had a training staff that was around him getting him ready,” the source said. “But running the bases in a controlled atmosphere as opposed to, ‘Whack, the ball is hit, I have got to go,’ it’s a little different. I have seen injured players try to come back and when they are testing [their legs] it’s not the same. I would not doubt Cespedes being ready to go. That’s his mindset, he’s going to work to be ready. I don’t think he is ready for his career to be over right now.”

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