It's been 722 days and counting since Yoenis Cespedes last took the field for the New York Mets in an official game. Almost two years, one wild boar incident and numerous days of rehab later, the Cuban star says he'll be ready for Opening Day.
"I think possibly in the beginning in March I felt like I probably wouldn't have been ready for the season, I wouldn't have been ready in time," Cespedes told reporters through a translator Saturday. "But I know for certain now that I will be ready, and I'm very excited for the season to start in two weeks."
The Mets will open the campaign July 24 against the Atlanta Braves following months of delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a labor dispute between the players union and owners, both of which gave the 34-year-old plenty of extra time to finish his rehab program.
Cespedes told reporters he woke up every day at 5:00 a.m. to begin his workouts during the hiatus, and all that work may have put him in a position to take over as New York's designated hitter.
The move would be warranted if he can regain anything resembling his previous offensive form.
In the outfielder's last full season in 2016, he slashed .280/.354/.530 with 31 home runs and 86 RBI. Putting that type of power in a lineup alongside sluggers Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis could pay quick dividends for a club with playoff aspirations in a 60-game season.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said last month the team hadn't decided where Cespedes will slot into the lineup but remained optimistic the player will at least be available to start the season.
Since appearing in a career-high 159 games in 2015, the slugger has only played more than 100 contests in a season once—2016. He appeared in 81 games in 2017 and 38 games a year later.
"To be honest, I'm not out here to prove anything to anyone," Cespedes said. "I'm out here to prove something to myself—that after three surgeries that I can come back and play the way that I know that I can."