A day after he took his first criticisms about questionable decisions he made in a game, Mickey Callaway had to make another move that is never easy for a veteran manager, let alone a first-timer. After days of asking politely and tentatively, the Mets manager had to finally tell his star player, Yoenis Cespedes, to take a seat Monday night as the Mets began a three-game series vs. the Nationals.
“He didn’t like it,” Callaway said of Cespedes’ reaction. “He was like, ‘What? Why?’ I said I feel like you need it.”
It was a move by Callaway that was long overdue.
Despite the Mets’ early success, a franchise-best 12-2 start, their fortunes this season will hinge on Cespedes breaking out of his early-season slump and being himself in that lineup down the stretch. So, the Mets have to do everything in their power to make sure he remains healthy throughout the season and ensure his power bat is in there consistently.
Monday was Cespedes’ first day off this season, and he fought his manager and himself to put if off for about a week. The 31-year-old battled a cold and flu-like symptoms last week but kept talking his way into the lineup. Callaway said he had approached him every day during a three-game series in Miami and asked Cespedes if he wanted a day to relax.
“He looked at me like I had two heads,” Callaway said with a laugh.
Cespedes explained that he felt the only way to get out of a slump is to grind his way through it. He said he knows he has not yet found his timing this season, so he believers he needs to play every day to find it.
Although he fought his way to stay in the lineup, Yoenis Cespedes was finally given a day off by skipper Mickey Callaway.
“Sometimes guys need a break just to step back,” Mets hitting coach Pat Roessler said. “Sometimes guys need to grind their way through it, but this is his first off day this season. I think they had it planned. It’s a good day for him to be off, a good matchup for him to be off.”
Well, maybe it’s just that Tuesday’s matchup is one where the Mets need him more. While he has hit .316 with three homers and six RBI off Monday’s Nationals starter, Jeremy Hellickson, he’s one of the few Mets who can hit lefty Gio Gonzalez, who is scheduled to start Tuesday. Cespedes has hit .438 with two homers against Gonzalez, who has dominated the Mets in recent years.
Roessler said he had “absolutely zero” concern about Cespedes at this point.
“He’s not gonna hit a buck-70 all year,” Roessler said with a laugh. “It’s just some of his pitch selection and some of is is a need to warm up the weather. It’s kind of hard to stand out there on defense in 40 degree weather and come in and hit. So that has been hard, but, everybody has been there like that too. The weather affects different people in different ways too.
“He’ll find his way.”
Cespedes has not found his way at the plate yet this season. He was 7-for-his-last-47 through Sunday’s game with 23 strikeouts and just two walks.
Keeping Yoenis Cespedes healthy is a key to the Mets’ season.
“I think he’s put some good swings on some balls. I thought for a while there he was just a tad late. His timing was off, obviously. He was just a tad late,” Callaway said. “He had some really good early (batting practice) sessions to try and get it right. He had that first good game back here, then he just seemed like he is not quite there. He had some good swings, but the timing is just off.
“We’ll give him day off to relax mentally, get refocused and come back tomorrow.”
Ironically, two of the hits Cespedes has had in that streak have been game-winners, and with his potential to quickly break out and change a game, it’s easy to understand a manager’s tendency to let him play when he wants to.
But there has to be a limit. We saw how talking his way into the lineup worked against the Mets last season. When Cespedes came back from his first hamstring injury of 2017, the Mets laid out a very specific plan for days off for their slugger to try and keep him from talking his way into the lineup.
Cespedes has committed himself to working out this winter so he could stay healthy and in the lineup this season. Part of that is taking days off. So Monday, Cespedes may not have been happy to be sitting, but it was a move Callaway had to make. This one won’t be questioned.
- Join the Conversation: