Cespedes set for sim game, could return Friday

July 15th, 2018

NEW YORK -- will take a tangible step forward in his rehab from a strained right hip flexor on Monday, with the outfielder scheduled to play five innings in left field in a simulated game in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The Mets remain hopeful that Cespedes can come off the disabled list as soon as Friday at Yankee Stadium, where he could serve as their designated hitter.

"That's something we're keeping in mind," manager Mickey Callaway said. "Obviously, the way rehab has gone and can go, we can't determine what's going to happen. But we would like him to be available, obviously, as soon as possible."

First, Cespedes must complete the final phase of his rehab progression without issue -- something he wasn't able to do last month, when continued leg soreness forced him to shut down a Minor League rehab assignment in New Jersey. If Cespedes experiences no issues playing five innings Monday, he could advance to another rehab assignment later this week.

But the Mets will not activate him as their DH unless he proves capable of playing nine innings in left field, as the team will return to National League parks immediately following its three-game series at Yankee Stadium.

On the DL since May 14, Cespedes was hitting .255 with eight home runs and a .790 OPS at the time of his injury. He still has more than two years and $59 million left on his four-year, $110-million contract.

Rotation set

will start the Mets' first game after the All-Star break, followed by and in the team's three-game series against the Yankees. Syndergaard will be pitching on six days' rest after coming off the DL last Friday, while deGrom is likely to throw an inning Tuesday at the All-Star Game.

Zack Wheeler is the obvious candidate to pitch New York's fourth game after the break, but beyond that, the Mets aren't saying. When asked about , who threw six effective innings in a Minor League rehab start on Saturday and appears ready to come off the DL, Callaway mentioned both him and as candidates to serve as the Mets' fifth starter.

"I think we need to evaluate where everybody's at over the All-Star break," Callaway said. "We've just got to figure out what's going to be best for our team. It's good to know we have options with Vargas now being healthy. So we're going to sit down over the break, try to figure out exactly what is best for our team moving forward in the second half."

Check-up scheduled

Rehabbing infielder is scheduled to fly to New York for an examination by Mets doctors, after experiencing pain in his right arm during a Minor League rehab game on Friday. Rivera underwent Tommy John surgery last September, and he has not played in a big league game since.