NEW YORK -- For months, Melky Cabrera had no job, his time as a big leaguer seemingly in limbo at age 35. The Mets worked him out in February, asking the career outfielder to take some ground balls at first base, but never made an offer. Then the pandemic hit.
Still jobless, Cabrera bided his time until Major League Baseball announced its plans for a 60-game season. Once the league did, the Mets came calling, interested in what the .285 career hitter might be able to provide in a reserve role.
“What they did tell me was to just come in and work hard,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “You just never know what happens. So I’m coming here to work hard and give it my all.”
There are no guarantees that Cabrera, a veteran of 15 seasons, will make the Mets’ Opening Day roster. They already employ several players ticketed for DH duties, including Yoenis Céspedes and Jed Lowrie, and have a fully stocked outfield with J.D. Davis, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto and Jake Marisnick. Cabrera offers a layer of depth behind those players, giving the Mets some offensive versatility thanks to his ability to switch-hit.
If nothing else, the situation allows Cabrera to return to New York, where he last played for the Yankees from 2005-09. Cabrera came up through the Minors and debuted the same season as Robinson Canó, with whom he remains a close friend.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Cabrera said. “This is where I first started my career. And I’m grateful to the team for giving me this new opportunity to continue playing here.”
Starting at designated hitter in the Mets’ simulated game Sunday, Céspedes drove home a fourth-inning run with an RBI single off reliever Seth Lugo. Céspedes had homered off Lugo several days earlier. He spent the entire game at DH, despite manager Luis Rojas indicating he will see time at left field in the coming days.
Other highlights from the intrasquad game included Edwin Díaz striking out a pair in a perfect inning, and Rick Porcello stretching out to four innings of one-run ball.
Several players remain absent
Canó missed a fifth consecutive workout Sunday for undisclosed reasons. Pitchers Brad Brach and Jared Hughes also have yet to appear during the portions of Summer Camp open to the media. The Mets have declined comment on the absences of all three, outside of Rojas saying “the timeline is not known yet” for them to return.
Rojas added that the Mets have not sustained any baseball-related injuries since the start of Summer Camp.
The Mets have a team off-day Monday at the exact halfway point of Summer Camp. They’ll return Tuesday for four more days of workouts and intrasquad games, followed by exhibitions against the Yankees on July 18 (Citi Field) and 19 (Yankee Stadium).
Rojas raved about his team’s communication with hitting coach Chili Davis, who has been quarantining in Arizona due to the high number of coronavirus cases in that state. From his home, Davis has checked in daily with Mets hitters, along with coaches and Rojas in one-on-one and group sessions.
“The communication’s there,” Rojas said. “It’s been great, him working remotely and being able to stay connected and up to date, and watch video of what we’re doing here. Chili’s very much engaged to the program in camp right now.”
There is still no timeline for Davis to join the Mets in person.
Reliever Dellin Betances’ velocity continues to increase. Betances, who topped out at 90 mph during Spring Training in March and was in the low 90s earlier in Summer Camp, increased his fastball velocity to the mid-90s this weekend at Citi Field.
“It looked like it was really uncomfortable for batters,” Rojas said. “The zip on his fastball was there.”
The Mets expect Betances, who spent his offseason rehabbing from a partially torn left Achilles tendon, to be ready for Opening Day.