New York Mets

Spector | Mets should be cautious with Cespedes and mindful of bench

New York Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes (52) during the eighth inning of an opening day baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, Monday, April 3, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

NEW YORK – Having gone 13-17 in the games that Yoenis Cespedes missed last season, the New York Mets had to breathe a deep sigh of relief Thursday night when the hamstring injury that knocked him out of a 6-4 loss to the Phillies was something the star outfielder felt was not as severe as previous ailments he’s suffered.

The Mets called it a cramp that Cespedes suffered between first and second base on Jay Bruce’s double play ball in the fifth inning. Cespedes said through a translator that it was more of “a shock” and neither a cramp nor a pull.

“I’m going to get an MRI tomorrow, but the doctor checked me out and said it should be two or three days,” Cespedes said.

As much as the Mets are scuffling in the early going – 8-8 so far while having played only Philadelphia, Miami, and Atlanta – they still need to be cautious with Cespedes, their most dangerous hitter. New York can ill afford to let a seemingly minor injury get aggravated and become something that submarines their whole season.

“Anytime you talk about hamstrings, it’s a concern,” Collins said. “When you talk about the hamstrings, on a guy like that, his muscle strength is in his legs, so you’ve got to be careful. … Everybody talks about this guy not running balls out. He beat out an infield single, he was running hard to second, ran hard too after some fly balls tonight. Those things happen..”

The Mets already are without captain David Wright, pitchers Seth Lugo and Steven Matz, and outfielder Brandon Nimmo, all of whom are on the disabled list. On Thursday, New York had to start Jay Bruce at first base for the fourth time in his career because Lucas Duda was unavailable after hurting his elbow on Wednesday and Wilmer Flores was dealing with an infection to an unidentified body part.

Between Duda, Flores, and Cespedes, somebody needs to go on the disabled list so that the Mets can have at least a semblance of a bench for a not-unimportant series against the Washington Nationals this weekend. This year’s change of the DL from 15 days to 10 seems to be leading teams around baseball to be more apt to use it for minor injuries, but the Mets have made an odd habit in the past couple of years of playing shorthanded, and did it again in their series finale against the Phillies.

The short bench wasn’t why the Mets lost for the fifth time in their last six games, but it didn’t help. Juan Lagares was going to be New York’s backup infielder if one was needed because he was a shortstop in high school, but he wound up having to play center field after Cespedes got hurt, with Michael Conforto moving to left.

That may be the silver lining of the equation for the Mets. Conforto made a nice catch in left field and had a 2-for-4 night, raising his season line to .320/.387/.600 and continuing to look like the player he was when he debuted in 2015, rather than the one who had such a rough 2016. The Mets obviously don’t want to lose Cespedes for an extended period, but Conforto’s presence and performance make it easier to let Cespedes have the time to make sure he’s really okay when he does return to the lineup.

“Our training room’s starting to fill up again,” Collins said. “We don’t need that. … We’ll grind it out. We always have. We always will. We know what we’re up against.”

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