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Brodie Van Wagenen 'optimistic' Yoenis Cespedes will be ready for Opening Day

Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets looks on from

Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets looks on from the dugout during the first inning against the Padres at Citi Field on July 24, 2018. Credit: Jim McIsaac

If you hoped baseball starting up again would bring clarity regarding the health of Mets enigmas Yoenis Cespedes and Jed Lowrie, well, you’ll have to keep hoping.

General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said the Mets are “optimistic” that Cespedes will be ready for Opening Day in late July but was otherwise short on specifics. Lowrie, meanwhile, is still using the large brace he wore on his left leg during spring training.

“For Jed, it’s been a long time since he’s played in a real game,” Van Wagenen said of Lowrie, whose leg injuries limited him to eight plate appearances in 2019. “Our hope is that he’ll be able to continue to transition out of that brace and start to see some more advanced action here in the coming days.”

That is also what the Mets were saying about Lowrie when MLB shut down spring training three-and-a-half months ago.

The positive injury news: Michael Conforto will participate “without restrictions” when team workouts begin Friday. A strained right oblique in March made him questionable for the original Opening Day.

Cespedes also seems to be making progress. In spring training, he was participating in some defensive drills and ran in a straight line but had not advanced to running the bases. He is recovering from a broken ankle he suffered during an encounter with a wild boar in May 2019, as well as heel surgeries in 2018. He hasn’t played in a major-league game in nearly two years.

“Cespedes has been working hard,” Van Wagenen said. “We are looking forward to him getting into camp and believe that he should be closer to being game-ready than when we saw him last in March.”One pandemic-induced change that should benefit Cespedes: The National League is using the designated hitter this season.

In addition to Cespedes, Van Wagenen specifically mentioned J.D. Davis (penciled in as the starting leftfielder), Dominic Smith (a bench bat who plays first and left) and Robinson Cano (the starting second baseman) as players who could see time at DH. He also named Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil, Conforto and Brandon Nimmo as “guys (who) can get off their legs more often if we’re utilizing the DH.”

“The list goes on of the types of players that can have the offensive profile to be able to take at-bats as a designated hitter,” Van Wagenen said.

The Mets feel strongly that they should be playoff contenders, and their lineup is a big part of that. Last year, they ranked 13th in the majors in runs scored, 11th in home runs, 11th in average, 11th in slugging percentage and 10th in OBP.

“We feel like our lineup can be as deep as anybody’s in baseball,” Van Wagenen said. “We think we have punch. We have guys that can impact the game with the bat, so we’re looking forward to utilizing the DH spot to both protect our guys’ health and to put up some offensive force.

“Workload management is going to be important, especially early in the season. The ability to have a DH, for our players, can help manage that workload.”

The DH should aid that effort. So would a potentially healthy Cespedes.

“His bat can be a real impact and be a little bit of a separator for us as we compare ourselves to the rest of the teams in the league,” Van Wagenen said. “When he’s 100 percent healthy, he’s got a dynamic skill set with all five tools. We’ll want to make sure that we put him in a position to be able to utilize those tools that he has.”

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