Slimmed-down Lagares on a mission in 2016

Outfielder hopes to regain status as an elite defender for Mets

February 24th, 2016

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- For the first time in his life, Juan Lagares stopped raiding the refrigerator late at night.

Lagares knew his weight affected him last season, contributing to his fall from one of baseball's elite defensive players to a merely above-average one. So he stopped snacking before bedtime, watching his diet more carefully in general. Lagares then made another change to his habits following a month-long stint in winter ball, flying to New York to work out on Long Island with Jose Reyes. There, the current and former Mets set about putting the explosiveness back in Lagares' game. He lost approximately 20 pounds.

"I put more emphasis on it," Lagares said. "Let's say I was eating late at night, [bad] food. I had to stop that. I had to eat better."

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That, combined with the return of his arm strength, has Lagares confident that he can again be an impact player in 2016. Looking back, he says, elbow pain overwhelmed him for most of last season, contributing to his setback as a defender. But the issue began to resolve itself toward the end of the year, and Lagares estimates he compiled three or four outfield assists during winter ball games in the Dominican Republic.

"I feel so much better," he said.

With Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes and Curtis Granderson slated to receive the lion's share of outfield innings this season, playing time may still be difficult for Lagares to attain. But the Mets are committed to Lagares for four more seasons and $22.5 million, and the club will find ways to put Lagares in games for as long as he is an adept defender.

"This guy came in here with a mission," manager Terry Collins said. "This is a great start to it."