Report: Cespedes willing to play some 1B

Slugger taking grounders while recovering from right hip injury

July 11th, 2018

NEW YORK -- It has been a common afternoon sight at Citi Field since he arrived in Queens three summers ago to spot on the infield dirt. The Mets' left fielder has long taken infield grounders prior to games, mostly at third base, where he will flip underhand tosses across the diamond. But the drills were never considered serious practice.

That's changed over the course of the past two months, much of which Cespedes has spent rehabbing a right hip injury. While at the team's complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Cespedes has taken grounders at first base with an eye toward playing the position upon his return to the Mets, according to a report by the New York Post. Cespedes has never played the infield during his seven-year Major League career, though he dabbled at shortstop competitively before defecting from Cuba in 2012.

"He is open to first base," Mets assistant general manager John Ricco told the Post. "That is something we have to discuss long term if that works. He is taking grounders to see how it feels. That is the extent of it so far."

The next step would be testing Cespedes' ability at the position during a rehab stint, which the Mets plan for Cespedes to begin during the All-Star break. Though the club and Cespedes envision him as predominately an outfielder, both parties agree that at least a part-time position change could help alleviate stress on Cespedes' oft-injured legs.

The latest in a long line of maladies to Cespedes' lower half has been a strained right hip flexor; he's also battled quad and calf issues. Cespedes was hitting .255/.316/.474 with eight home runs before landing on the DL on May 14. He played 81 games last season, and he missed 30 due to injury in 2016.

"It is kind of the early stages of how he looks out there," Ricco told the Post. "You would love to have Spring Training to get ready. But if he has the aptitude for it and guys [the coaches] feel he can do it, you may see him over there [in a game]."

The Post, citing a source, reported that it was Cespedes who initially broached the idea with club officials. Cespedes has been reticent to switch positions in the past, balking at the possibility of sliding over to center or right. But the flexibility would be welcome on a roster already sporting five corner outfielders: Cespedes, , , (injured) and . However, a full-time move to first would ostensibly block top first-base prospects and Peter Alonso.