Céspedes ramping up; Lowrie still in knee brace

July 4th, 2020

NEW YORK -- For about 10 minutes during the latter third of the Mets’ workout on Friday, stood in foul ground, casually gunning baseballs 120-150 feet to his throwing partner Johneshwy Fargas. Later, after nearly all his teammates had departed, Céspedes stuck around by himself to run a series of sprints on the outfield grass.

For the Mets, that was significant. Since his last game in July 2018, Céspedes has undergone multiple heel surgeries and fractured his right ankle in a ranch accident. He did not return to the field in any meaningful way until this spring, when he took regular batting practice but didn't run at anything close to full speed.

During a brief workout Friday night at Citi Field, Céspedes looked to be a more complete player than when Mets camp broke due to the coronavirus in March.

“We’ll see in the upcoming days in camp when we start ramping it up more and we get involved into the bases and all that where he is as far as that,” manager Luis Rojas said earlier in the day. “But I know he was in progression and I heard really good things about it, and I can’t wait to see Céspedes myself.”

For the Mets, there is perhaps no more intriguing Summer Camp storyline than the health of Céspedes, who could play a significant role on the 2020 team due to his ability to start at designated hitter. Anything he can provide defensively is a bonus, considering his offensive potential: a .282 average with 74 homers over 308 games since he became a Met in 2015.

Friday marked another step forward for Céspedes, with three more weeks until Opening Day.

“To my understanding,” Rojas said, “he’s in that progression where they’re ramping him up.”

Mystery man

Even with extra time to recuperate from the left-side issues that have plagued him since at least February 2019, may not be able to participate in full baseball activities at Mets camp.

Lowrie has yet to shed the bulky brace that he wore on his left leg throughout Spring Training, and likely won’t appear in games until he’s able to do so. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said that Lowrie’s problems largely revolve around his left knee, and that Lowrie must find a way to feel comfortable playing with a lighter brace if he wants to contribute.

When Lowrie took the field Friday, he did so sporting the brace as he played catch and took a series of ground balls at Citi Field. Lowrie did not do any additional work on the field, but neither did most Mets players in an abbreviated workout.

“Once again, we’re going to see how his progression is,” Rojas said. “That’s something that I need to reassess with the performance staff as well to see where he is. The knee brace was his limitation as far as getting comfortable … throughout practice and seeing if he can wear it in games. That was the question as we were going through camp, and we need to reassess with the performance staff here in camp as far as his baseball activity.”

Coming in strong

Mets officials have lauded the form of reliever in recent days. Earlier this week, Van Wagenen said he was “extremely excited” about Betances now that the reliever, who hasn’t pitched since partially tearing his left Achilles tendon late last season, has had an extra three months to recuperate.

After watching Betances work out on the first day of Summer Camp, Rojas was just as enthusiastic.

“Watching him live today, it looked really good, ball coming out of his hands, both of his breaking balls coming out really good,” the Mets manager said. “Just good stuff. I watched from the angle behind the catcher. You see that monster on the mound, I can see why the strikeout ratio is so high with him. And then afterward I saw him also at the gym, and he was very pumped up about the day, going through the session.”

Betances should have no problem being ready for Opening Day; he figures to slide into a setup role behind Edwin Díaz, with a chance to unseat Díaz as closer if the latter struggles.

The new guys

Recent Mets signings Melky Cabrera, Gordon Beckham and Hunter Strickland all reported to camp on Friday, working out alongside their new teammates.