Céspedes impresses: 'He looks like a monster'

Cabrera open to playing 1B for Mets; Lugo's role undefined

July 4th, 2020

NEW YORK -- Count among those impressed by ' form during the early days of Summer Camp.

“He looks like a monster,” Conforto said Saturday, a day after working out alongside Céspedes at Citi Field. “He looks like he’s motivated. He looks like he’s in shape. I’ve seen some of the stuff he was doing to get himself ready, some videos of him working out at his ranch. The guy is definitely hungry. He misses the game.”

Like many, Conforto views the universal designated hitter as a significant benefit to the Mets, in large part because it gives them an opportunity to get Céspedes’ bat in their lineup on a regular basis. Regardless of what Céspedes can do in the field following multiple heel surgeries and a fractured right ankle, the Mets are confident in his ability to hit.

“To get Yo in the lineup on an everyday basis, that’s going to be absolutely incredible for us,” Conforto said. “It’s something that we haven’t had, and we’re pretty excited about it.”

Asked Saturday about Céspedes’ ability to play left field for the first time since May 2018, Mets manager Luis Rojas indicated it’s too soon to tell. Céspedes has spent the early days of Summer Camp working out with his fellow outfielders, but his destination could still be DH.

No matter Céspedes’ role, the Mets are eager to have him back. Although Céspedes worked out alongside his teammates during Spring Training, he also spent significant time on his own with the training staff. Those restrictions no longer appear to be so pronounced.

“I say this every time somebody asks me about him: He really is a great teammate,” Conforto said. “He brings energy to our drills, to the cage. He’s just a guy you miss having around, so I’m excited that he’s back and he’s feeling good. Hopefully, he can do what he does best for us and really bring the thunder with that bat and make some great plays in the outfield.”

Melky on the move?
Since signing last week, Mets officials have openly discussed plans to give him reps as a designated hitter. On Saturday, Rojas offered another possibility: first base.

A natural outfielder, Cabrera has never played first as a professional, but he told the Mets he’s willing to work there during Summer Camp. Although the Mets have plenty of protection at the position with both Pete Alonso and Dominic Smith, Cabrera could be an option to get those players off their feet late in games.

At the least, Cabrera, a lifetime .285 hitter, could make a strong run at the Opening Day roster in a switch-hitting bench role.

“This guy definitely has hitting ability,” Rojas said, “and he has some versatility in him as well.”

Role undefined
Even though the Mets are down a starter with Noah Syndergaard out for the year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, it doesn’t appear they’ll be granting his wish to stretch out as a starting pitcher. The team has a clearly defined five-man rotation that doesn’t include Lugo, who figures to reprise his multi-inning relief role.

“It’s going to be different for everybody on every team with there being only 60 games,” Lugo said. “Luis knows how much I want to start. I don’t think any coaches doubt what I want to do. I don’t think I need to say anything, so I haven’t.”

The 60-game regular season gives the Mets additional options for Lugo, who could regularly start bullpen games or serve as an opener. But team officials have yet to give any indications that they plan to go that route.

As for Lugo, whose first child was born shortly after the coronavirus shutdown, the past few months afforded him a chance to spend more time with his growing family.

“It was nice being able to raise him and be with him for the last few months,” Lugo said. “I got more quality time than I would have had if we were playing, so that’s a silver lining for me.”

Game time
Starting Sunday, the Mets plan to expand their daily agenda to include a simulated game at Citi Field. That will follow staggered workouts for players in the morning and early afternoon, and it will give pitchers an opportunity to face hitters.

Rojas said right-hander Marcus Stroman and shortstop Amed Rosario, who both did not attend the first two days of workouts for undisclosed reasons, could join the team Sunday.

“I expect to see them both very soon,” Rojas said. “We’ve been staggering workouts, the groups. The guys have been coming in different times. At the same time, we’re not expecting everyone on a daily basis. Everyone has a timeline and they’re on a progression, and we’re definitely expecting them to come soon.”

“That might be the biggest key to this entire thing. It takes one poor choice, one lapse in judgment, to create a big outbreak, and that’s why we really have to stay away from that. We’re trying to hold each other accountable, but also make it fun. We have an opportunity that’s unique. There are some risks, but we’re in it together.” -- Conforto, on players holding each other accountable regarding COVID-19 protocols