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Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes says he’s on a path toward being ready for Opening Day

PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets looks on during the team workout at Clover Park on February 20, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 20: Yoenis Cespedes #52 of the New York Mets looks on during the team workout at Clover Park on February 20, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
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Yoenis Cespedes is sounding optimistic about his potential return to the New York Mets, saying he’s on the path toward being ready for Opening Day.

Yoenis Cespedes hasn’t played a Major League Baseball game since 2018. To get more specific, it was July 20 when the New York Mets visited the New York Yankees.

Cespedes didn’t play the field that day, instead slotting in as the team’s DH for the game. So, to find the last time he actually played defense in a game, you have to travel back to May 13 in a game versus the Philadelphia Phillies.

Determined to silence his doubters and to recoup the salary he had stripped away, Cespedes is hopeful he’ll be back as soon as possible. As Tim Healey of Newsday reported and shared, the big guy believes he’s on the right path toward an Opening Day return.

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As Cespedes said, he’s at 80 percent on his running progress and 90-95 on defense. These are arbitrary numbers. But it does tell us how his body is feeling.

I’m not quite sure you can be an outfielder and be further away from running than you can at playing defense. A big part of covering left field at Citi Field is running after the ball. It’s half the battle.

Opening Day is still nearly a month away so there’s room for any stalling in the progress. However, I do think there’s only a minimal chance we see Yo open the year on the Mets roster.

The team needs to be careful with Cespedes. When he came back for one game in 2018, it looked like a mistake which may have cost him more time. This is a guy whose body isn’t used to the rigors of playing multiple games. Unless Cespedes and the team are 100 percent confident he’s not going to land back on the IL shortly after, I would prefer to see some extended spring training or even a few rehab games.

Cespedes single-handedly has a chance to boost the Mets’ playoff hopes. It’s only going to happen if he’s on the field playing at or near the same level he performed during his career. Delaying his return is important if it means getting more out of him later when others may have gotten hurt.

Cespedes’ presence on the Mets could create an early roster crunch. At this stage, I do think we’ll see Jed Lowrie begin the year on the IL so we won’t have to worry about him. Fortunately, this takes some of the pressure off.

The team could have a five-man bench which includes Cespedes, the backup catcher, Dominic Smith, Jake Marisnick, and Luis Guillorme. This is all assuming J.D. Davis is the primary left fielder to begin the year.

This leaves little room for Lowrie when and if he’s ever ready to return. Someone like Max Moroff or maybe even Andres Gimenez could fill that infield role later on in the year should the Mets need some additional depth.

Next. What is Cespedes' role with the 2020 team?

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I give Cespedes credit for having confidence. I’ll give him 100 times more when he’s back on the field, swatting dingers looking like his old self.

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