When baseball comes back next month, Yoenis Céspedes might finally be ready to return, too.
Sidelined for nearly two years by injuries and then the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Mets slugger could be healthy enough at last to play on opening day in late July — especially with the designated hitter available in the National League this season.
“We’ll have to evaluate how the next few days go, but we’re optimistic,” Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said Monday. “His bat can be a real impact and be a little bit of a separator for us as we compare ourselves to the rest of the teams in the league.”
The 34-year-old Céspedes hasn’t played since July 20, 2018 — his only major league game after May 13 that year. The two-time All-Star had surgery on both heels and then broke his right ankle in a nasty spill on his Florida ranch in a reported run-in with a wild boar.
Van Wagenen mentioned that Céspedes is a five-tool athlete and won’t necessarily be limited to DH duty if healthy. The left fielder is entering the final season of a four-year contract.
“Céspedes has been working hard. We are looking forward to him getting into camp and believe that he should be closer to being game-ready than when we saw him last in March,” Van Wagenen said.
Right fielder Michael Conforto should have no restrictions when spring training starts up again this week. Conforto strained a muscle on his right side in March before camps were closed due to the virus outbreak.
New York will begin workouts Friday at Citi Field, and Van Wagenen said the team anticipates all its players will report.
Starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery soon after the shutdown, will rehab in Florida for the time being.
The Mets signed five players to minor league contracts Monday: reliever Hunter Strickland, outfielder Melky Cabrera, infielder Gordon Beckham, pitcher Erasmo Ramírez and outfielder Ryan Cordell.
Ramírez and Cordell performed well for the Mets in spring training this year before it was stopped.
All five were added to New York’s 60-man roster pool, now at 50 players with more expected when the club’s secondary site opens in Brooklyn. Van Wagenen said Tim Tebow remains under consideration for an insurance spot, just like many other minor leaguers.
In other news, the Mets signed second-round draft pick J.T. Ginn after the sides agreed on a $2.9 million bonus — more than double his slot value of $1,403,200. The right-hander from Mississippi State, who had Tommy John surgery in March, was selected 52nd overall.
Ginn was drafted 30th overall by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018 but chose to attend college.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.