Cespedes adds running to baseball activities

Outfielder injured hip in early May; Mets may use 'opener' vs. Braves; Plawecki to return soon

May 25th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- Slow to return from a strained right hip flexor, made significant progress Friday when he began a running progression on the field at Miller Park. Previously, Cespedes had been limited to hitting and throwing, without attempting to run on his injured leg.

Cespedes initially hurt his hip May 6, playing five games through discomfort. The Mets finally put him on the disabled list on May 14, retroactive to the previous day. But despite the Mets' initial hesitation to place Cespedes on the DL, he did not come off when first eligible on Thursday, and still must clear significant hurdles before he does so. After his running progression reaches its peak, Cespedes is likely to appear in a rehab game or two before the Mets activate him.

In 37 games this season, Cespedes is batting .255 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs. He has not discussed his injury or rehab publicly since the day he first suffered it.

In Cespedes' absence, has played almost every day in left field, breaking out with a .991 OPS entering Friday's play. Although it is not immediately clear how he will do so, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said he intends to continue playing Nimmo regularly once Cespedes returns.

"It's hard to overlook that quality that he has in taking pitches and working deep counts, either walking or putting the ball in play pretty hard," Callaway said, specifically referring to Nimmo's presence as the Mets' leadoff man. "All guys when they perform the way he has, when they step in and do something like he's doing, make you reassess the situation. And it should, because they deserve it."

Opening act

Taking a cue from the Rays, the Mets are considering using an "opener" for the second game of Monday's doubleheader against the Braves, seeking to maximize their starter's ability to complete six innings.

Either or may pitch the first inning against the Braves, likely facing , and Freddie Freeman -- Atlanta's three best hitters, on paper -- before giving way to a spot starter. The strategy would allow the Mets to use one of their best pitchers against the Braves' top three hitters, and also have their second pitcher avoid facing those batters more than twice.

"It makes sense to me if you're going to be in a situation like we might end up being in that second game," Callaway said. "To get through those first three or four batters in the first inning will mean a lot in that game."

Such a strategy would not be wise, Callaway indicated, if or were starting that game. But with  as the most likely candidate, using an "opener" could maximize the Mets' chances to dampen offense throughout the evening.

The Mets will announce their pitching plan after assessing their bullpen usage the next two days in Milwaukee. If they do proceed with the "opener" strategy, which the Rays have used extensively in recent weeks, it will require communication with all parties involved. Gsellman, for instance, says he would likely warm as if for a bullpen appearance, not a start. (He has pitched in both roles throughout his career.)

"It's always fun starting," Gsellman said. "But I've always had the same mentality of just getting ahead of the batters and throwing strikes."

Catching complement

Sidelined since April 11 due to a fractured left hand, could rejoin the Mets as soon as Monday in Atlanta. But he won't reassume a full split of the team's catching duties -- at least not right away.

In his first two rehab games for Triple-A Las Vegas, Plawecki went 2-for-6 with a home run, catching seven innings Thursday. He will stretch out to a full nine-inning game this weekend, after which the Mets plan to reevaluate -- and potentially activate -- him.

But while team officials have floated the idea of splitting time evenly between Plawecki and , the latter's hot start -- five extra-base hits in his first 40 plate appearances -- has them reevaluating the situation. Most likely, Callaway indicated, the Mets will ease Plawecki back with a game behind the plate each series.

"The thing we're going to have to keep in mind with Plawecki is he won't be that built up when he comes back," Callaway said. "He'll be built up enough to catch probably once every two or three days, at most, to start. So I think it wouldn't be too different than what's going on now, until he's got his legs underneath him a little bit."

Not this time

The Mets' collection of mid-30s stars won't continue growing anytime soon. A source said the club has little interest in , whom the Red Sox designated for assignment on Saturday. Mostly a first baseman at this point in his career, Ramirez does not fit into the Mets' current roster mix, which will only become more crowded once Cespedes and return from the disabled list.

Even without Ramirez, the Mets feature three of the game's 50 oldest position players in (34), (36) and the newly signed (37).