It was a sweltering night, but a chill went through Citi Field in the top of the fifth inning. The Mets were riding high, already having scored four runs against the Cubs, when Terry Collins and trainer Ray Ramirez emerged from the dugout and commenced their version of the Green Mile walk.
Past the infield, over the dirt, to the green, green grass in left, where Yoenis Cespedes waited.
The news wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was enough that, by the sixth, Cespedes’ night was over. His hamstring was all right, he said, but his left heel was bothering him.
“He’s got a bad left heel,” Collins said, adding that it’s not the first time it has flared up. “We saw him limping out of the dugout to go to leftfield . . . He said it goes away. Sometimes it just goes away.”
In his final at-bat in the bottom of the fifth, Cespedes walked gingerly to the plate, flied out to center, then walked haltingly to the dugout. Ramirez had a quick chat with him while Curtis Granderson trotted out to left to take his place.
Almost from the beginning of the game, Cespedes walked with a slight limp, immediately raising concern that his left hamstring still was taking its toll after landing him on the disabled list for all of May and part of June.
“I think I’m just trying to be a little bit cautious,” Cespedes said, adding that he’s had problems with his heel since he played in Cuba. “I always feel a little sore [in the morning]. Then throughout the course of the day, it kind of goes away, but today, it didn’t go away. It actually got just a little bit worse.’’
The Mets went 16-20 in Cespedes’ absence; they’re 120-89 with him in the lineup and nine games under .500 when he’s not. He’s hitting .278 with seven home runs in 72 at bats this year (he was 1-for-3 Monday night) and probably provides more than that via a morale boost.
So the Mets cautiously orchestrated his return. They have spoken of not overexerting the hamstring or the quadriceps that also bothered him in his DL stint. This series against the Cubs was supposed to mark his first time playing back-to-back games.
Fans still are burned over how the team handled him last year, when Cespedes tried to play through a quadriceps injury and landed on the DL. The Mets hope for no such rerun. Collins said he’ll stay out as long as the team is concerned that the heel will aggravate any part of his oft-ailing lower body.
Clad in shorts and sneakers, he still was limping slightly after the game but said he thought he could play Tuesday night. “I’ve just always played through this,” he said. “I’m used to it.”
But this time around, that won’t be enough for Collins to keep trotting him out there.
“The big picture is, we’ve got to keep [him] in as many games as we possibly can,” he said. “I told him, I don’t want you to alter the way you run. If you do, all of a sudden now you’re running with different muscle groups. You just can’t worry about one thing. There’s always something else that’s going to pop in and rear its head.”