Already facing a crossroads in what is looking more and more like a cursed season, the Mets gave in to what has long seemed inevitable. Yoenis Cespedes landed on the disabled list after Wednesday’s 9-5 loss to the Yankees with a strained right quad that has plagued him for nearly a month.
“It’s been frustrating, because I’ve lost my timing, I’ve lost my games, and I haven’t been able to contribute to the ballclub,” said Cespedes, who tweaked the quad muscle on the second swing of his final at-bat.
Brandon Nimmo has been summoned from Triple-A Las Vegas to take the spot of Cespedes, who leads the Mets in average (.292), homers (22) and RBIs (59). Now, with his team 8 1⁄2 games back of the Nationals in the NL East and two games behind the Cardinals for the last wild-card spot, Cespedes must become a spectator.
“The best option is just rest, about 10 days or so, because if I continue playing hurt I’m never going to recover,” said Cespedes, whose playing time had been limited in the Mets’ attempt to avoid sending him to the disabled list.
Despite being just 85 percent, Cespedes had not been placed on the DL, with the Mets desperate for his bat. He hurt himself on July 8 against the Nationals and did not play again until July 17- in hopes that the All-Star break would hasten his healing.
The Mets even shifted him from centerfield to leftfield, hoping that covering less ground would ease the strain on his leg, even if it meant throwing the rest of the outfield into chaos. It wound up being a futile quest.
Cespedes played only 14 games since the break, hitting .227 with one homer and seven RBIs.
The Mets hoped to use five straight games in American League parks to determine if Cespedes would be sent to the DL. He would be used as the DH, as he was on Wednesday night, his first start since Saturday.
Cespedes apparently felt well enough to golf before the game with former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar, who shared a photo of the duo on social media. Terry Collins brushed off the optics of the star player golfing despite being on the brink of a stint on the disabled list.
“Was he running on the course or was he walking?” the manager said. “Did he ride on the cart or was he jogging? No, I don’t have any problem with it, no.”
Said Alderson: “I’ll let you know after the game tonight.”
But by the end of the day, bad optics were the least of the Mets’ problems. They dealt with a more pressing issue: trying to revive their season without their transformational slugger.
The Mets had already been struggling for answers.
It’s why until noon on Monday, the Mets believed they had a chance to land both Jay Bruce and Jonathon Lucroy before the nonwaiver trade deadline. It’s why the Mets gladly acquired Bruce, even though he’s another lefthanded hitting corner outfielder on a team loaded with them.
Alderson has been willing to sacrifice defense for offense, which is why Curtis Granderson and Michael Conforto will man centerfield when they profile better in the corners.
But despite all these concessions, the Mets find themselves fighting the same demons, squandering plenty of opportunities in Wednesday’s loss.
Bruce had been traded from the Reds with a .360 average with runners in scoring position. But he struck out looking with the bases loaded in the seventh and finished 0-for-4 with a walk. In his first two games as a Met, the three-time all-star is 0-for-8.
“The problem is scoring runs,” Alderson said. “So if we have to sacrifice and the defense causes our ERA to go up a tenth of a point or what have you, hey, you’ve got to go for it. We want to try to get better.”
Of course, Cespedes went down, and the Mets’ headaches only got worse.