Mickey Callaway felt something had to be done. The Mets manager had written star slugger Yoenis Cespedes into the starting lineup for 14 straight games. Though it started well enough, the left fielder hasn’t hit much in more than a week. So Callaway opted to take him out of the lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Nationals at Citi Field.
“He didn’t like it,” Callaway said, describing Cespedes reaction to the news. “He was like, ‘What? Why?’ I was like, ‘I feel like you need it.’”
He had plenty of reason to feel that way. Cespedes had four hits in his first eight at-bats this season and is 7-for-50 in 53 plate appearances since, including 23 strikeouts. His batting average had fallen to .190, though he did have three home runs and a team-high 12 RBI.
“I think a day off to relax mentally, get refocused and come back tomorrow,” Callaway said was his reasoning.
Through the first 14 games last season, Cespedes hit. 250 with six home runs and 10 RBI.
“He’s put some good swings on some balls. I thought for a while there he was just a tad late, his timing has been off obviously,” Callaway said. “He was just a tad late. He had some really good early BP sessions to try to get it right. He had that first good game back here, and then he just, it seems like he’s just not quite — he’s putting good swings on it, but just the timing is just off.”
Brandon Nimmo’s recent excellent play provided some latitude for Callaway to make the call. Nimmo was 3-for-5 on Sunday and was a double short of the cycle. He had appeared in eight games before starting on Monday and was batting .400 (6-for-15) with four walks in 21 plate appearances.
Only Cespedes and third baseman Todd Frazier had started every game for the Mets and Callaway has said that one of his goals is to keep players rested and fresh so they produce throughout the season. Playing a large number of games in cold, raw weather was also a factor.
“I knew one (day off) needed to be coming at some point,” Callaway said before first pitch. “After last night, the brutal cold and the seemingly bad weather again today, I thought it was a good day.”