When the Mets and Yoenis Cespedes agreed just after Thanksgiving to a $110 million, four-year contract, Mets fans rejoiced that the Cuban slugger was returning to Citi Field.
"He's a very friendly human being, easily approachable," said pitcher Jerry Blevins, who will play his fifth season with Cespedes. "That's rare for a guy with his talent to kind of have a personality as friendly as that. It would be easy for him to be an unapproachable guy, and I wouldn't hold it against him if he were because there's a lot of expectations on his shoulders. He carries it with pride. He's a fun guy, and I like to say that I know him and call him a friend."
Cespedes' arm strength and home runs bring out the baseball fan in Blevins, who played three years with the 31-year-old outfielder in Oakland.
"It's fun coming to the ballpark every day and watching a guy like Cespedes play," the left-handed reliever said. "Whether it's offensively or defensively, you have a chance to see a highlight play every single day."
Pitcher Noah Syndergaard is close with Cespedes and thought his friend would be back in a Mets uniform.
"He's one of my favorite guys on the team and just an all-around awesome person to be around," Syndergaard said. "You can't say no to New York."
New York was 52-50 when it acquired Cespedes from Detroit at the trade deadline in 2015, finished 90-72 and reached the World Series for the first time since 2000. He became a free agent and signed a $75 million, three-year contract that allowed him to opt out after one season and $27.5 million, and the Mets were 47-38 when he injured his right quadriceps last July 8.
New York went 13-23 as he hobbled and spent time on the disabled list. After he returned, the Mets closed with a 27-14 surge to finish 87-75 and made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time in team history, but they lost to San Francisco in the NL wild-card game.
Cespedes began his workouts earlier this offseason, training at the fitness facility adjacent to the Mets' spring training stadium.
"He spent the winter getting himself in tremendous shape," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "After he signed he started going to the Barwis facility three days a week. I heard raves from our strength and conditioning people on how hard he was working. He looks absolutely fabulous."
A handful of positon players arrived early to camp with pitchers and catchers. Curtis Granderson and David Wright set up in their side-by-side lockers nearest the coaches' offices, while Wilmer Flores and T.J. Rivera sat near one another along the wall that backs up to the home dugout.
On the corner of the row by the steps leading to the dugout sat Cespedes.
"I think for the first time as a major leaguer he knows where he's going to be next year. There's nothing hanging over his head," Collins said. "He's going to be here. He's the guy. He's getting in great shape, and we hope he can be out there 155 games."
Notes: The Mets announced a 10-year marketing partnership with First Data for the spring complex's naming rights. First Data Field replaces Tradition Field as the ballpark name. ... 1B Lucas Duda felt stiff and did not hit outside with team. . RHP Seth Lugo is to start for the Mets in their exhibition opener against Boston in Fort Myers on Friday.