Cespedes arrives in NY for first game with Mets
Slugger hits third in lineup and plays left field, will see some time in center
NEW YORK -- Halfway through his second round of batting practice with the Mets, Yoenis Cespedes launched a home run several rows deep into the left-center-field seats -- a place where Major League Baseball players don't typically hit baseballs. Instantly, he validated the hopes of manager Terry Collins, who was sitting in the dugout at the time, laughing and joking in a grand old mood. And that was before Cespedes drew an intentional walk in the game itself, adding fuel to the Mets' go-ahead rally in a 3-2 win over the Nationals on Saturday.
Two days earlier, Collins had spoken to his mentor Jim Leyland, who knew Cespedes from Detroit and lauded his abilities. So when Collins found out Friday, mere minutes before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, that his team had acquired Cespedes, he could hardly contain his emotion.
"I don't want to set the expectations too high," Collins said. "I just know we're better. And with our pitching, that means a lot."
Never in Collins' managerial career with the Astros, Angels or Mets had his teams acquired an All-Star-caliber talent such as Cespedes at the Deadline. And when he arrived at Citi Field for the first time Saturday, Cespedes certainly looked the part: biceps bulging out of a jet-black T-shirt, the word "BAM!" splashed across it in a comic book font.
The Mets advertised Cespedes' debut as "Fireworks and fireworks," playing off their previously scheduled postgame pyrotechnics show. And while Cespedes -- outside of a 300-plus-foot foul ball that drew audible "oohs" from a sold-out crowd -- didn't add any thunder to Saturday's game, his intentional walk changed the complexion of it.
With a man on second and one out in the eighth, Nationals manager Matt Williams elected to intentionally walk Cespedes to get to Lucas Duda, who delivered the go-ahead RBI double. Cespedes finished 0-for-3 with that walk and a strikeout.
The Mets know that if they harbor hopes of making their first playoff appearance since 2006, they will need their newest player to continue lighting the fuse.
"I hear a lot about New York and the crowds," Cespedes said through an interpreter. "I really like playing in front of a big crowd. I think it drives me, pushes me to do better, to play better, to push myself more."
In his debut against the Nationals, Cespedes batted third and played left field, though Collins said he may look to try Cespedes in center as soon as Sunday. If it works, the Mets may start Cespedes there regularly against right-handed pitchers, and in left field vs. lefties. On Saturday, Curtis Granderson was in center for just the second time this season; the biggest loser in the playing time shuffle may be Juan Lagares, who will rarely, if ever, start against righties going forward.
Simply put, Collins has options now, and they all seem better than they did a week ago.
"I know that's why we went after him, because of all those reasons," Collins said. "We're very comfortable that he's here and he's going to bring the offense that we're looking for. He's always done it."