Yoenis Cespedes has finally landed on the disabled list.
The Mets, after saying for more than a week that Cespedes’ mild right hip flexor strain was worth playing through, reversed course Wednesday morning and decided to sideline the slugging leftfielder for at least 10 days. The DL stint is backdated to Monday, the day after Cespedes most recently played.
To fill Cespedes’ roster spot, the Mets recalled utility man Phillip Evans, one of three healthy position players on the 40-man roster not already in the majors, from Triple-A Las Vegas. Brandon Nimmo and Juan Lagares figure to absorb most of Cespedes’ playing time.
“Based on the information we got [from an MRI Tuesday] morning, the decision was pretty clear that we needed to get him on the DL to get him back to where he needs to be,” manager Mickey Callaway said before Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Blue Jays at Citi Field. “He was improving while he was playing. That kind of stopped. Let’s take a different route and make sure we are cautious with him and get him back to being the Cespedes he can be sooner.”
Upper-leg issues have plagued Cespedes for years. He missed 10 days in 2016 with a strained right quad. Last year, strained left and right hamstrings cost him about half the season.
In an effort to avoid such injuries, Cespedes overhauled his offseason conditioning. He ran more, lifted lighter weights, started doing yoga and gave up golf.
Why did it happen again, then?
Cespedes declined to comment.
“It’s just wear and tear on the body through a major-league season that everybody goes through,” Callaway said. “He was doing everything we asked of him, not only through the offseason, but in-season with everything. He was doing a great job. His preparation and the way he went about his business is definitely not the reason this happened.”
Cespedes initially suffered the injury on May 6 when he left the Mets’ loss to the Rockies early. The team announced it as a hip issue, but Cespedes called it a quad issue. Callaway said Wednesday that the Mets did not consider having Cespedes get an MRI at the time because he played through it, ending up back in the lineup the next day in Cincinnati.
Playing in all five games on the Mets’ road trip last week, Cespedes managed the pain with the help of a partial day Wednesday (a pinch-hit appearance), plus one team off day and one postponement. He went 5-for-15 (.333) with a .389 OBP and .667 slugging percentage on that trip. The Mets said the nature of the injury was such that he could not exacerbate it by continuing to play.
“He tried his best to play through it,” Callaway said. “He did a pretty good job at times. Other times we noticed it was affecting him. That’s part of being a major-league baseball player. They have to try to play through what they can play through. There comes a time when you have to make a decision that it’s better off to take some rest.”
When the injury wasn’t getting better, the Mets decided Tuesday to have Cespedes go for an MRI, which revealed the mild strain of his right hip flexor. General manager Sandy Alderson said Tuesday that Cespedes “is prepared to be realistic about his situation” as team decision-makers deliberated further.
“He got the MRI and it made the decision for us,” Callaway said.
The Mets couldn’t get a replacement in from Las Vegas in time to make an official transaction on Tuesday. They said Cespedes was available to pinch hit, but only in a situation with the game on the line.
“There might have been a little bit of an advantage to the other team [the Blue Jays] not knowing he wasn’t available,” Callaway said.