PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- If nothing else, Yoenis Cespedes understands his body better now at age 32 than ever before. Although Cespedes personally believes playing golf during the season can help him reduce the length of slumps, he is abandoning the game in an effort to keep his legs as fresh as possible.
When Cespedes showed up on the Mets' injury report Tuesday with a sore right shoulder, he explained that he feels this way the first two weeks of every spring. Give him some time and he'll feel normal again.
That -- time -- is the only thing that will tell if Cespedes can indeed achieve his goal of playing in 160-plus games. Only time can prove that Cespedes' shoulder issue is as minor as he and the Mets -- who are making a concerted effort to be more transparent with injury issues -- believe.
And so the Mets will wait, their alarms humming but not blaring. Cespedes hopes to return to the Mets' lineup Friday, at which time he will resume his quest for an MVP-caliber season.
"There's nothing special with this," Cespedes said of his shoulder issue. "It's something that's all [part of] my routine. As long as I keep throwing, it will get better for me."
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There is nonetheless reason for concern with Cespedes, who has missed time due to hamstring, quadriceps, hip and wrist injuries over the past two seasons. While on the disabled list with a strained right quad in 2016, Cespedes drew criticism for golfing during his recovery. The team had previously tolerated if not outright encouraged his golfing behavior, once inviting television cameras to watch him play a round in Florida.
Last year, Cespedes tried to play through a tweaked left hamstring, ultimately exacerbating the strain and missing six weeks. Critics again pointed fingers, accusing Cespedes' heavy weightlifting regimen -- the Mets posted a video on their official Facebook page of him performing 900-pound "bear squats" last spring -- of making his body too bulky and inflexible.
Even if Cespedes doesn't necessarily agree that birdies and bear squats are the culprits, he has made changes to cut them out of his life. No longer does Cespedes max out his weightlifting, going lighter in an effort to avoid injury. In addition, Cespedes has taken up yoga, which he believes will make him more flexible.
Golf is gone completely -- a decision he made late last year, giving up his favored hobby in an effort to stay healthy.
"There are many players who when they are in a slump, they go play golf to try to work on their hitting," Cespedes said. "In my case, I will not do it because I choose to rest my legs so I can be more relaxed and more rested, and also so my legs have more time to heal."
Time, again, will tell if that makes a difference. But Cespedes at least saw some early returns in his first Grapefruit League game, hitting a mammoth home run Sunday that cleared First Data Field entirely. That Cespedes missed the team's next two games with a sore shoulder, and plans to skip two more before returning, is less important to a Mets team that simply wants him healthy on Opening Day.
"I'm not really worried at all," manager Mickey Callaway said. "He's going to be totally fine with what he's got going on. We've just got to make sure that he's getting his at-bats along the way."