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Yoenis Cespedes expects to play for Mets in 2019 season

The veteran slugger, four months removed from the second of his two heel surgeries, said he is feeling better and can walk without any pain.

Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on Feb. 15, 2019

Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes on Feb. 15, 2019 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Almost four months removed from his most recent surgery, Yoenis Cespedes is frustrated and bored, he said, but he’s feeling good about the Mets’ chances of competing and his chances of participating this year.

Speaking publicly for the first time since September, he said he expects to play in the second half of the 2019 season, though he doesn’t know when he will be ready. That is in line with what Mets officials have said throughout the offseason.

For now, progress comes in small bits, such as beginning a throwing program next week. Cespedes, 33, said he is unaware of a timeline for when he will start running or hitting, but he has been working out in Port St. Lucie for the past two months and is strengthening the tendons in his feet and ankles.

He already can sense the benefits of his twin heel surgeries after dealing with chronic pain there since he was a teenager.

“I do feel a lot better. I can’t even say at the moment that I’m at 50 percent, but when I used to wake up [pre-surgery], I would struggle walking,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “But now, even at this stage of the rehab, I can definitely walk without any pain.”

He has played 119 games in the past two seasons — only 38 in 2018 — because of a variety of leg injuries that the Mets and Cespedes believe stemmed from the heel issues. Injuries, in effect, wasted the first half of his four-year, $110 million contract (which Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen negotiated when he was Cespedes’ agent).

Cespedes had surgery to remove the bone calcification in his right heel on Aug. 2. He had a similar procedure on the left heel on Oct. 26.

The rehabilitation process is a long one, but he plans to be in top form when he is back.

“There’s not a lot of precedent for this type of thing,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We have time and we’re going to let him get to where he can come back and be that guy that is going to be impactful and be the 100 percent Yoenis that he can be. We have time, and I know he’s itching to get out there, but that’s kind of how I see it as a manager at this point.”

Said Cespedes: “When I do return, I plan on being 100 percent like I was in 2015. That’s what I plan on doing.”

Callaway hasn’t noticed any frustration from Cespedes and is impressed with the outfielder’s physical state.

“Yo has always done a great job of taking care of himself and being strong,” Callaway said. “I shook his hand; he came up to me today, I think he was trying to show me how strong he is, and he almost broke my hand messing around. He’s in good shape.”

For as long as he is out this season, Cespedes plans to take a different approach to keeping his head in the game.

When he was sidelined in the past, he said, he wouldn’t want to watch Mets games because it bothered him that he couldn’t help, win or lose.

“This year I’m going to be trying to watch a lot more so I can call the players and I can be rooting for them and supporting them in the best way I can,” he said. “What I can say to the fans is that this team is really good. The young guys have come in ready to work, ready to play. And in my case, I’m here to get stronger and eventually help the team.”

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