Yoenis Cespedes said he experienced a “shock” at the back of his left hamstring Thursday night as he aborted his sprint to second base during a fifth-inning double play.
As for everyone else at Citi Field, including the dugout full of Mets watching Cespedes limp down to the clubhouse, they were stunned.
Now Cespedes? Really? The Mets couldn’t even clear April before being ransacked — again — by injuries, but losing their $110-million slugger for any length of time is the unthinkable scenario.
A few hours earlier, Terry Collins spent most of his pregame media briefing going over the random afflictions to Lucas Duda (hyperextended elbow), Travis d’Arnaud (bruised hand) and Wilmer Flores (knee infection). That was bad enough.
But aside from playing short in a 6-4 loss to the Phillies, those were all nicks and bumps the Mets could endure. Move Jay Bruce to first base, call up Kevin Plawecki and wait for the antibiotics to knock out Flores’ bug in a day or two. No problem.
A limping Cespedes, however, is the Mets’ nightmare fuel, the sort of injury that can almost torpedo championship dreams with one very unlucky step. We won’t know the severity of Cespedes’ issue until today, when he undergoes an MRI, and the early diagnosis from the Mets offered mixed messages.
When Cespedes exited the game, the Mets announced he had suffered a left hamstring “cramp,” which suggests a minor problem. Shortly after the final out, Collins said no one had mentioned the word “cramp” to him, and the manager switched into his all-too-familiar crisis mode.
“Any time you talk about a hamstring, it’s a concern, obviously,” Collins said. “With the muscle strength in his legs, you have to be careful.”
That put us on high alert, as Collins habitually does. But down the hallway, by his locker, Cespedes provided the most optimistic outlook. Like Collins, he disagreed with what the Mets pushed on us — “It’s not a cramp, it felt like a shock” — and didn’t sound all that worried about it. The true authority, however, will be the MRI tube.
“I’ve had this type of injury before,” he said through an interpreter. “This time it doesn’t feel as serious as the other times.”
And that’s not all. Cespedes said the doctor who examined him in the clubhouse predicted he’d need only “two or three days” to get back in the lineup. The Mets would gladly sign up for that, even though Cespedes would miss the series with the Nationals this weekend. But it’s also not the first time we’ve heard such a rosy diagnosis, only to see it miss by two or three weeks. When it comes to Mets injuries, the best bet usually is to take the over. Going on Cespedes’ self-diagnosis, maybe this is the exception.
Last season, Cespedes got banged up quite a bit and was limited to 132 games because of a DL stint for a strained right quadriceps, along with missing occasional time for a mild wrist sprain and sore hip.
This spring, he had the quadriceps tighten up on him, but it never developed into anything too troubling. This hamstring situation is a new one, and the area of the leg is what makes it so alarming.
While the Mets carried a surplus of outfielders into the season and do have coverage for the position, Cespedes has a unique skill set. As much as Bruce has raked in April, tying him for the team lead with six home runs, the Mets desperately need Cespedes for his intimidating bat.
The Mets are a .500 team (8-8), and the losses are piling up off the field, too. “Our trainer’s room is starting to fill up again,” Collins said.
And they badly need Cespedes to stay out of it.