MIAMI — Speaking publicly for the first time since suffering a season-ending hamstring injury, Yoenis Cespedes vowed to revamp his workout regimen in an effort to sidestep the health woes that sabotaged his year.
In the first season of a four-year, $110-million deal, the 31-year-old Cespedes hit .292 with 17 homers and 42 RBIs. But he played only 81 games because of multiple leg injuries that rarely allowed him to take the field at full capacity. His failure to stay on the field helped derail a season of high expectations for the Mets.
Cespedes admitted that at times he was “a little bit scared” to run at full speed “because I knew in the back of my mind that there was always that chance that something could happen.”
“That’s extremely frustrating,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I love being on the field and I love playing baseball. And just sort of seeing the state of the team, it has been really hard not being able to be there for them to help out.”
The slugger also offered a full-throated defense of Mike Barwis, the team’s senior adviser of strength and conditioning, whose training methods have drawn scrutiny after a season in which the team’s plans for contention were ruined by a never-ending wave of injuries.
General manager Sandy Alderson has said that Barwis will be retained by the team. On Tuesday, Cespedes said he has worked directly with Barwis to move past the right hamstring injury that ended his season in late August.
“I think people may have a different sort of perception of him,” said Cespedes, who visited with his teammates before Tuesday’s game against the Marlins. “He’s very loud and he can talk a lot so they probably see this crazier sort of energy coming off of him. But I’ve learned when you get past that, he’s actually such a smart guy. He has so much insight, so much knowledge, and for me it’s so important to be able to spend that time with him where he’s able to pass on that knowledge onto me and we’re able to prepare me better.”
Cespedes said he is working directly with Barwis while receiving treatment for his right hamstring four times a week at the team’s complex in Port St. Lucie. Rather than focus on heavy weight training, Cespedes intends to work in more running and agility exercises.
“In the past, I’ve gone into the season where I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym doing a lot of lifting so I come in feeling strong,” Cespedes said. “But I definitely wasn’t dedicating the time I needed to be running, to really be giving resistance to my muscles. Although I start out strong, I can tell during the season my muscles probably weren’t able to keep up. They were definitely wearing out. I figured out that’s really where the change needs to be.”
For Cespedes, a similar shift worked during the 2015 season, when he played a career-high 159 games for the Tigers and Mets. That offseason, he trained with the goal of stealing 30 bases. He wound up with only seven, though he’s convinced the emphasis on running helped to keep him on the field.
“Definitely running a lot more,” Cespedes said. “That’s what I know I’ve got to bring over to this next season so I make sure this doesn’t happen again.”