NEW YORK -- For some of the last four weeks, the Mets played shorthanded, as Yoenis Céspedes nursed a strained right quadriceps muscle. For the rest of it, the Mets played with Cespedes operating at some unknown percentage of his normal ability. Through it all, the Mets maintained that they wanted Cespedes on their roster for what manager Terry Collins is calling "crunch time," regardless of whether he was fully healthy.
That changed Wednesday, after Cespedes tweaked his quad a third time during the Mets' 9-5 loss to the Yankees. The Mets placed Cespedes on the disabled list, where he will stay for at least the next 15 days. Rookie Brandon Nimmo will rejoin the team on Thursday.
"I think the best option is just rest, about 10 days or so," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "If I continue playing hurt, I'm never going to recover."
That line of thinking runs directly contrary to how the Mets have operated since July 8, when Cespedes first strained his quad in a game against the Nationals. Initially, the Mets decided to play shorthanded for the next two games, knowing an additional four-day rest awaited Cespedes at the All-Star break. He returned to play in 12 of the Mets' next 13 games, starting 11 of them, before aggravating his injury Saturday against the Rockies.
Still, the Mets did not place Cespedes on the DL, choosing instead to play another two games shorthanded. Their thinking echoed the first time around: with five games awaiting them in American League ballparks, the Mets figured they could rest Cespedes by using him exclusively as a designated hitter in those contests. Still, Collins used Cespedes as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning of a five-run game on Tuesday, after which Cespedes said he felt discomfort legging out an infield single.
The next night, Cespedes debuted as a DH at Yankee Stadium, arriving there after an afternoon round of golf with former big leaguer Kevin Millar -- in the process creating a miniature firestorm that both Collins and general manager Sandy Alderson downplayed before the game. Still, Collins said, Cespedes was operating at "not even close to 100 percent," gauging him at closer to 80-85 percent.
Singling in the first inning and legging out a fielder's choice in the seventh, Cespedes reported no discomfort until his final swing of the night in the ninth. Afterward, he huddled with Alderson, who made the decision to place him on the DL.
Overall since initially suffering his injury, Cespedes appeared in 14 of the Mets' 21 games, starting 12 of them, and batting .227 with one home run and a .662 OPS.
"It's been frustrating because I've lost my timing, I've lost games and I haven't been able to contribute to the ballclub," Cespedes said.
As far as possibly going on the DL earlier, Cespedes said: "It never crossed my mind. The first time around, I missed several days, but the disabled list never came across [my mind]."
Had Cespedes gone on the DL when he initially hurt his quad, he would have missed 10 games. Now he will miss at least 14, with the Mets scrambling to fill in for their lone offensive All-Star.