Mets’ Cespedes striving to play on Opening Day

Field Level Media

February 23, 2020 at 6:35 pm.

New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes broke his self-imposed media ban on Sunday, telling reporters at spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that he wants to be healthy enough to play on Opening Day.

“I feel good. I am happy with the progress,” said Cespedes, who was sidelined by injuries for most of 2018 and all of the ’19 season. “Every day I am still working to get better and better. It’s not as fast as I want it to be, but as the season approaches, I feel really good right now.”

Cespedes told reporters on Monday he wouldn’t talk but apparently had a change of heart and answered questions Sunday through an interpreter.

“Not today, not tomorrow, not at all this year,” he said earlier this week about when he planned to talk with reporters.

And while he opened up on Sunday, Cespedes wouldn’t answer questions about the past, including injuries.

He played in 81 games in 2017 and in 38 games the following season, plagued by injuries including hamstring strains, a hip flexor and problems with his heels. He had offseason heel surgery, then last May, broke his right ankle in a fall at his ranch in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

At the time, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said the outfielder stepped in a hole and fell “violently.” Later, it was reported the injury occurred in an incident with a wild boar.

Now 34, Cespedes signed a four-year, $110 million contract with the Mets in November 2016. Last December, he agreed to an injury settlement that lowered his base pay to $6 million from $29.5 million, though he has a chance to increase his pay if he meets incentives.

He said money is some of his desire to have a productive 2020 season, but he also wants to prove the doubters wrong.

“A big part of the motivation is the people who have been out there and have been saying that I can’t do it,” he said. “So I am going out there to prove that I can.”

Cespedes is a career .274 hitter in seven seasons with the Oakland Athletics (2012-14), Boston Red Sox (2014), Detroit Tigers (2015) and Mets (2015-18). He has 163 home runs and 524 RBIs.