Yoenis Cespedes returned to the Mets Saturday, cleared to play by the Mets medical and rehab staff, after six weeks on the disabled list with a pulled left hamstring. The slugger, however, said he was uncertain he could run 100% yet.
And the 31-year old insisted that while the Mets will try to manage his workload to keep him healthy, he will be the ultimate decider when it comes to how much he plays.
“I feel good, but I don’t feel 100%,” Cespedes said Saturday morning before the first game of the Mets’ doubleheader against the Braves at SunTrust Park. “I don’t know that I can run 100% at this point yet.”
That combined with the fact that Cespedes stubbornly insisted that he will make decisions about his availability, is certainly concerning.
“I know they have a plan for me, but nobody knows my body better than I do,” Cespedes said. “So if they want to give me days off it kind of has to be based on how I feel and how I feel my body is reacting.”
Sound familiar? It should to Mets fans, because that was basically what Noah Syndergaard had insisted when he refused to get an MRI on his biceps and before he went out and suffered a torn right lat muscle.
So why, with the Mets third in the National League in runs scored for the month of May while he was on the DL, the rush to bring Cespedes back? Yes, the Mets are struggling and eight games below .500, but the slugger can’t fix the starting pitching
Privately, the Mets said that Cespedes’ legs – he also suffered right quad soreness in a rehab game that shut him down for a few days – were tested and are healthy.
But considering that the Mets agreed to spend $110 million in a four-year deal with Cespedes this winter, they have to be concerned about risking that investment.
They were concerned enough last month to fly Cespedes up to New York to have his back examined to see if there was an issue there that may have been the underlying cause of Cespedes’ history of leg issues. That was the case with David Wright, who in May 2015 was put on the DL with a hamstring issue but was later diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Mets GM Sandy Alderson, however, said that Cespedes’ back checked out fine.
Still, the Mets wanted to put a plan in place to help prevent the leg issues.
The left fielder said that he spent the last six weeks working out an hour-long, everyday program with the Mets’ high-profile strength and conditioning coordinator, Mike Barwis, to help improve his elasticity.
“He’s given me a very long routine, it usually takes about an hour to get through it,” Cespedes said. “I think it’s going to help me stay healthy.”
Terry Collins is pretty serious about keeping Cespedes healthy.
“We have to make sure that we don’t stress Ces out in the beginning,” the Mets manager said. “He has played one game now, game and a half in a month so probably he’ll play today, see what situation is going to be here in next few days. certainly we’ve got to sit down and take a look at the long range perhaps next five or six days…Hopefully we’ll have some type of a plan but nothing to be etched in stone for sure.”
Collins and the Mets took some heat when Cespedes went down with the strained left hamstring, because he had just missed three games because of feeling what he described as “a shock,” in the same muscle as he ran the bases in an April 20 loss to the Phillies.
The question of whether the Mets had allowed Cespedes to talk his way back into the lineup too soon hung over the team in Cespedes’ second game back into the lineup when he was carried off the field with the strained hamstring.
“You could say yes, but I like playing ball I just wanted to come back and play ball,” Cespedes said of returning to the Mets lineup April 26. “The last time I went to the hospital and got an MRI and they said it was fine. So I don’t know what happened there, but it shouldn’t have taken that long.”
But it did and Cespedes and the Mets should have learned from that. Hopefully they won’t repeat their own bad history with injuries.