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Yo-ga? Cespedes emphasizing flexibility

Mets slugger determined to avoid leg injuries that hampered him last season
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Following two consecutive seasons defined by leg injuries, Yoenis Cespedes knew he needed to make a change. But he perhaps did not realize how deep the problem ran until he stepped into a yoga system for the first time this winter. That day, Cespedes could not even finish the class.

"For a person who is not flexible, it is really tough doing yoga," he said through an interpreter.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Following two consecutive seasons defined by leg injuries, Yoenis Cespedes knew he needed to make a change. But he perhaps did not realize how deep the problem ran until he stepped into a yoga system for the first time this winter. That day, Cespedes could not even finish the class.

"For a person who is not flexible, it is really tough doing yoga," he said through an interpreter.

Over time, Cespedes improved, though he still considers himself a beginner. He plans to continue doing yoga this spring; it's part of a three-pronged plan for Cespedes to avoid the types of injuries that have sidelined him all too often the past two seasons and throughout his career.

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"The yoga has been working for me," Cespedes said. "The last couple seasons, when I showed up down here, my lower back was very tight, and I haven't felt that yet. … My muscles are more flexible right now. When I used to work out with heavy weightlifting, I was strong, but I wasn't flexible. Right now, I am flexible because of the yoga."

In addition to yoga, Cespedes spent his offseason running more than ever before while reducing the amount of weight that he lifted. Gone are the days of Cespedes doing 900-pound bear squats at trainer Mike Barwis' Port St. Lucie studio. Instead, Cespedes focused on exercises he never before paid much heed to, hoping to match the 159 games he played in 2015.

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His ultimate individual goal hasn't changed -- "I want to be an MVP," said Cespedes, who owns a .900 OPS in 270 career games with the Mets. But his journey to achieve that has been different.

"Injuries are unpreventable, but what I learned is to prepare more to avoid those kinds of things this season," Cespedes said.

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In the same Spring Training clubhouse as Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, David Wright, Todd Frazier and other headline-grabbing Mets, Cespedes has evolved into something of a forgotten man. No longer does he roll into camp in fancy cars. No longer does he parade around on horseback.

Now 32 years old, Cespedes is still in his prime, entering the second season of a four-year, $110-million contract. In year one of that contract, he appeared in just 81 games due to leg issues, missing six weeks at one point because he tried to play through a tweaked hamstring. He never wants to have a season like that again.

"He's taken the first step. He had a great offseason," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "We have to hold him accountable for the things he's going to do. We've got to make sure he's going about his business the right way, fulfilling all those routines that are going to be necessary for him to go out and play every day. But he's taken the first, great step toward that."

Added Callaway: "We want Cespedes on the field as much as possible, that's for sure."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Yoenis Cespedes