Yoenis Cespedes is trending in the right direction for a return while Michael Conforto has no restrictions when the New York Mets report for a summer version of spring training later this week, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen told the media on a conference call Monday afternoon.
“None of us have been together for quite some time. The performance staff, coaching staff have stayed connected to our players in an incredible fashion,” Van Wagenen said. “Cespedes has been working hard… we’re closer to him being game-ready that what we saw in March.”
“Conforto is ready without restrictions.”
Meanwhile, veteran infielder Jed Lowrie continues to struggle with his recovery as he is working on transitioning out of his leg brace.
Conforto suffered a strained oblique during spring training before it was canceled by the coronavirus pandemic, originally casting doubt on his availability for Opening Day — originally scheduled for March 26.
He is coming off a career year, socking 33 home runs and 92 RBI.
Cespedes has not taken the field for the Mets since the 2018 season, a sizable void in the lineup considering he was once the franchise’s power bat before injuries derailed his time in Queens. After undergoing multiple surgeries to remove calcification in his heels in 2018, Cespedes broke his ankle during a wild-board encounter on his ranch in Florida.
The introduction of the designated hitter to the National League this year — the final season of his contract with the Mets — allows the team to utilize Cespedes more securely.
Rather than exerting himself in the outfield and possibly stressing the recovering areas, the Mets can use Cespedes exclusively as a DH to ensure his power bat is in the lineup.
“His bat can be a real impact and can separate our team from the rest of the field in our league,” Van Wagenen said. “When he’s 100% healthy, he has a dynamic skillset with all five tools. We want to put him in a position where he’ll be able to utilize those tools… Workload management will be very important… The ability to have a DH for our players can help manage that workload.”
Granted the Mets will have options.
“We have Cesepedes, Dominic Smith JD Davis, Robinson Cano, Jed Lowrie, who have the offensive profile to take at-bats as a designated hitter,” he continued. “We feel like our lineup can be as deep as anybody’s in baseball.
With that cast minus Cespedes last year, the Mets made a late push for the postseason, holding one of the top records in baseball in the final 60 games by going 39-21.
It’s a figure that bodes well in Van Wagenen’s mind considering the sprint that lays ahead for his squad.
“We feel like we have a group that can contend,” he said. “We had the best record in the National League over the last 60 games of the season.”
Also on the call, Van Wagenen disclosed that one member of the team has tested positive for coronavirus but is recovering and feeling fine.