Yoenis Cespedes sat in his chair in front of his locker Tuesday afternoon and said he was fine. The Mets’ left fielder had missed the previous three games with a leg injury and with the rain pouring on the field outside, that was all Terry Collins had to go on when making out his lineup — Cespedes’ word that he was OK.
“We didn’t get outside so we’re going on his word,” the Mets manager said. “He did some stuff in the weight room today, did some things that was OK and good enough for the trainers and medical stuff.
“But, we didn’t get him outside to run by any means,” Collins admitted.
The Mets need more when it comes to their $110 million slugger. They need to see and know he is ready to play. The Mets cannot risk losing him. Collins knew that even as he penciled Cespedes’ name into the lineup Tuesday afternoon. He knew full well that he would most likely erase it if the game was played, while he was quietly lobbying the higher-ups for the game to be canceled to protect his players.
“If we play in this condition, you’d be in left field before Cespedes,” Collins said to a reporter.
“Like the other day, he said he could hit in the cold weather, but you are taking a chance to lose him for an extended period of time,” the manager explained. “I go back to a year ago when he had a quad issue. I gave him two days off and he re-injured it anyway. It’s a night (game), I am not sure it’s the smartest thing to do.”
Even after Monday’s scheduled day off, the Mets needed this rainout. Now they need to take advantage of it.
With Tuesday night’s game postponed to a straight doubleheader in late September, Mother Nature has given a team that has been beset by injuries a chance to regroup. Tuesday’s scheduled starter Robert Gsellman will be skipped and be able to work out of the beleaguered bullpen, giving Collins a chance to save the relievers some work. Collins can rest shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who is playing through a sore hamstring, and give Travis d’Arnaud, who was also scheduled to catch for the first time in five games, more time for his bruised right wrist to get stronger.
Most of all, it allowed Collins and the Mets to make sure Cespedes is healthy before he gets back on the field — rain or not.
Collins knows all too well that the Mets cannot survive without Cespedes for an extended period of time. Part of the reason the Mets gave Cespedes the four-year, $110 million deal last December were the black-and-white numbers on the bottom line. When Cespedes was not in their lineup last season, the Mets were just 18-23. So far this season, the Mets are 0-3 when he doesn’t have an at-bat.
Cespedes left Thursday night’s game with what he said was a “shock” in his left hamstring as he tried to run to second base. He was diagnosed with a “strained” hamstring and missed the series against the Nationals.
That was like the knockout blow as the Mets have been struggling to get back up off the canvas. They lost two pitchers, starter Steven Matz and reliever Seth Lugo, before Opening Day. They lost Wilmer Flores to a bizarre knee infection and Lucas Duda to a hyperextended elbow on a freak collision at first base. All four are on the disabled list and that does not include the walking wounded playing through issues.
It’s been a challenging start to a season that is heavy with expectations for the Mets.
They have lost eight of their last nine and four straight, falling behind the Nationals, Marlins and Phillies in the National League East race. It’s certainly a different situation than the Mets expected to be in, but it’s one they have to manage carefully.
“Certainly going into spring training, when everybody is healthy, it’s pretty easy. We had depth, we had depth of pitching, depth in our lineup and before the leaves are on the trees, you are down two starting pitchers and four position players,” Collins said. “So now, you’ve got to really say, we talked about protecting these guys and how to do it, but now we are faced with a little different situation.”
The Mets are in a tough spot, no doubt, but Tuesday’s rainout could be the break they needed.