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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Yoenis Cespedes calls these Mets ‘way better’ than 2015 team

Slugger steals the show while speaking English instead of Spanish at news conference.

Mets leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes throws during a workout

Mets leftfielder Yoenis Cespedes throws during a workout at Citi Field on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

The season starts on Thursday. Yoenis Cespedes took his first cuts on Wednesday.

Cespedes was the only Met to come out in 47-degree weather in a cutoff, sleeveless shirt for a pre-Opening Day workout at Citi Field. The slugger showed off his massive arms, and later showed off his bilingual oratorical skills during a shared news conference with Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier.

“I will try to do this with English,” Cespedes said. It is believed to be the first time as a Met that Cespedes has told the team’s translator to take the day off.

Cespedes went on to deliver the quote of the day.

“I’ve been so far, in 14 different teams,” he said. “And for me, this team, this year, is the best team that I’ve been around. So I’m really excited to go outside tomorrow with this team. This team, for me, is way better than the team we had in 2015 and we went to the World Series.”

The Mets are Cespedes’ fourth big-league team, so it’s possible he was on 14, including minor-league stops and squads from his native Cuba, but more likely he was exaggerating. The math doesn’t matter — just the part when Cespedes said the Mets were “way better” than the 2015 team.

Why?

“Everything,” Cespedes said. “The pitchers. The bullpen. The infield. The outfield. I think the hitters.”

That about covers it, right?

In truth, the Mets look to this observer to be a little short in the lineup and bullpen and are counting like heck on the Fab Four (Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Harvey) to all stay healthy and pitch like aces. That may not happen.

They are also counting on Cespedes to not be the oft-injured, oft-moody guy he was in 2017, when he appeared in only 81 games. The Mets need Cespedes to approach the mega-force he was in the second half of 2015, when his clutch hitting and unmistakable swagger made him one of the faces of the franchise’s renaissance.

Remember when Cespedes first wore the neon yellow sleeve on the same night a bright yellow parakeet made Citi Field its home? The Rally Parakeet became a brief Twitter thing. Cespedes, after capping that night with his first Mets home run, said: “I knew there was a bird on the field. I wanted to look like a bird.”

It was strange, it was quirky. It was fun. Cespedes seemed to be an exciting mixture of talent and personality. And he thrilled the Flushing faithful by deciding to re-sign with the Mets when he could have gone elsewhere.

But then Cespedes’ personality, like his health, did go elsewhere. This isn’t about how he treats the media (you don’t care, and you shouldn’t), but about team officials and even teammates having to walk on eggshells to see which Yo was going to show up every day.

This is the Yo the Mets want: The one who hit six home runs in 12 at-bats after returning from a wrist injury at the end of spring training. The one who can carry a club for weeks at a time. The one who doesn’t act like he just chewed on a sour lemon and shows the enthusiasm he showed Wednesday, when he bounded out of the dugout and onto the field for the workout.

Without sleeves. With a smile. With the muscle the Mets need.

“He’s a great person,” new manager Mickey Callaway said. “He’s an unbelievably talented ballplayer. I think when he’s on the field, he can be an MVP-type player. We’re going to try to put him in the best place to be out on the field as often as possible and I think that’s his goal, too. I’m really proud of the way he worked in the offseason to get to this point and we’re going to have some fun watching Yo play some baseball this year.”

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