PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — With one powerful swing, Yoenis Cespedes nearly flipped the narrative Sunday for the Mets, whose injury-tinted morning at First Data Field was painfully familiar for a team anxious to turn the page.
But watching Cespedes’ three-run blast in the Mets’ 10-3 win over the Marlins merely provided a momentary distraction and served as a tease to what the Mets might accomplish with a healthy roster, should they actually be able to sustain one.
After two weeks of relative tranquility, the Mets felt compelled to release one of their trademark “medical update” emails, an effort they began last season as an attempt to cut through any confusion. Two of the names already were known: Jay Bruce is dealing with plantar fasciitis and Juan Lagares has a tight hamstring that’s now being called a strain.
The other two were surprises. Dominic Smith suffered a strained right quadriceps while running the bases in Saturday’s game, and an MRI is scheduled for Monday. Tim Tebow was diagnosed with a sprained left ankle after stepping on an outfield sprinkler head earlier in the week.
The Mets overhauled their conditioning/medical staff during the offseason, firing longtime trainer Ray Ramirez and creating a new position — director of performance and sports science — to oversee the operation. But changing the narrative is going to be a more involved process, as Sunday’s events showed.
“It would bother me if we haven’t taken precautionary measures to try and prevent some of these things,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Injuries are going to happen no matter what you do. But as long as we are doing the right things to prevent them, it’s not going to bother you as much.”
Evidently, the yoga is working for Cespedes. The golf swing looks good, too — even though he’s put away his sticks to concentrate on baseball. Cespedes reached down as if he were hitting a 5-iron and drilled Tyler Cloyd’s shoetop-high fastball over the leftfield wall for a home run that traveled more than 400 feet.
That’s the good news. Even better? Cespedes, who played only 81 games last season because of repeated leg issues, survived his four-inning DH debut. He declined media requests to talk about it afterward, but the assumption is he’s still intact.
“He’s a presence,” said Callaway, who batted Cespedes in the No. 2 spot. “If you make a mistake, you’re going to pay. Having a guy like that in the lineup changes the feeling.”
The goal is to make sure Cespedes remains a fixture there. Callaway played coy when asked about hitting him second during the regular season, saying he doesn’t want to move people around too much when Michael Conforto eventually returns.
As the Mets stand now, that would be a nice problem to have, because it would mean their top players were still functional. And while Sunday’s medical roundup already felt like a flashback to a year ago, the hysteria subsided to a degree when Bruce, Lagares and Tebow participated in the morning drills.
Bruce shrugged off his foot injury, describing it as a “non-issue” that first popped up after he was traded to the Indians in August and tried a new style of cleats. He took batting practice and ran the bases Sunday, then insisted he was still a go-to DH Tuesday. “I’m not concerned,” Bruce said. “We’re just being precautionary. It’s Feb. 25. Guns-a-blazing aren’t really necessary right now.”
Callaway didn’t give a timetable on Lagares, who has been practicing but has yet to play. Lagares didn’t sound very worried a day earlier, and the Mets — in a notable departure from previous years — seem to be more cautious this time around.
As for Smith, he’s had a bumpy start to spring training, and it could get worse depending on his MRI. The first baseman, who was scratched from Friday’s opener after showing up late for a team meeting that morning, had to be removed Saturday after feeling soreness in his quadriceps while busting it on the basepaths. “It shouldn’t be that big of a deal,” he said. “It’s still early in spring.”
For those seeking a silver lining, there’s plenty of time left to heal. And if the Mets eventually make it through spring training in one piece — or close to it — seeing a yoga-toned Cespedes go deep Sunday provided a glimmer of optimism to teammates and fans alike.
“I hope we stay healthy this year because we have a good team,” Asdrubal Cabrera said. “If we stay healthy, we can make the playoffs this year.”
At this point, the Mets would settle for getting to Opening Day.