Luis Rojas was optimistic and Michael Conforto was flat-out effusive, lavishing praise upon his teammate.
It’s just two days into spring training 2.0, but Yoenis Cespedes already has the Mets believing he can make a major impact in this abbreviated 60-game season.
“He looks like a monster,” a smiling Conforto said on Saturday on a Zoom call from Citi Field. “He looks like he’s motivated. He looks like he’s in shape. I’ve seen some of the stuff he was doing to get himself ready, some videos of him working out at his ranch, the guy is definitely hungry.”
Cespedes, who missed all of last season and most of 2018 multiple leg injuries, regularly took live batting practice and caught fly balls in the outfield during shortened spring training. Rojas received positive reports that he was sprinting during the COVID-19 layoff, offering hope of a return to action. On Friday and Saturday, Cespedes took part in light workouts without any limitations.
The first-year manager cautioned that in the days to come there will be more tests for Cespedes as workouts increase in intensity and he has to prove capable of running the bases. So far, though, positives abound, especially with the advent of the DH in the National League, giving the slugger the chance to avoid playing the field full-time.
“He is moving good,” Rojas said. “He looked really good, footwork, and also going on fly balls. He had a couple of line drives back, line drives in and so he looked good getting into position off the fungo, so I am looking forward to keeping that progression off the bat seeing things and maybe when we get some live at-bats he can play back there on defense.”
It’s been a while since the 34-year-old Cespedes last played for the Mets, his last game coming on July 20, 2018. Since, he has undergone surgery on each of his heels and sustained ankle fractures in an accident on his ranch involving a wild boar. Now he is playing for a contract, in his final season of a four-year, $110 million contract. When healthy, he has produced, reaching two All-Star Games and leading the Mets to the postseason in his first two years with them in 2015 and 2016.
He would obviously be a significant addition to an already formidable lineup. It would deepen the Mets’ batting order, creating a potentially potent 3-4-5 of Cespedes, Pete Alonso and Conforto.
“He’s just a guy you miss having around,” Conforto said. “I’m excited that he’s back and he’s feeling good. Hopefully he can do what he does best for us and really bring the thunder with his bat and make some great plays in the outfield.”
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