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Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes opts out of MLB season over coronavirus concerns

New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes fields balls at first base in a summer training camp workout July 22 in New York.
New York Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes fields balls at first base during a summer training camp workout July 22 in New York.
(Kathy Willens / Associated Press)

When the New York Mets finally found out Yoenis Cespedes was OK, they suddenly learned something else: The slugger had opted out of playing the rest of this season.

Hours after Cespedes didn’t report to the ballpark without explanation, the Mets discovered in the late innings of Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Atlanta that he wouldn’t be back this year because of coronavirus concerns.

“I am very surprised,” first-year manager Luis Rojas said. “Him and I have had conversations regularly about playing time, where he was going to hit in the lineup, building him up in the outfield.”

“Nothing like this, so this is definitely a surprise,” he said.

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Cespedes went 0 for 4 during a 7-1 loss Saturday night in Atlanta. He is 5 for 31 (.161) with 15 strikeouts this season.

The Mets sent out a statement from general manager Brodie Van Wagenen in the early innings Sunday saying they couldn’t find Cespedes. Van Wagenen said the organization was later notified by Cespedes’ agent that he had decided to opt out for “for COVID-related reasons.”

Slumping slugger Cody Bellinger was given the day off, and the Dodgers responded by homering four times in an 11-2 rout of the Diamondbacks.

Cespedes joined Giants catcher Buster Posey, Dodgers pitcher David Price and Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman in opting out this season, all of them announcing their decisions before the virus-shortened 60-game season began in late July. Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis also chose not to play this year, then changed his mind.

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A two-time All-Star outfielder, the 34-year-old Cespedes celebrated his long-awaited return to the lineup with a home run on opening day that lifted the Mets over the Braves 1-0 at Citi Field.

It was his first game in the majors since July 20, 2018. He missed most of the past two years with a series of leg problems, getting surgery on both heels and then a broken ankle after a tumble at his Florida ranch in a supposed run-in with a wild boar.

But Cespedes struggled with his timing after that the uplifting home run, and didn’t seem comfortable at the plate.

Asked whether he sensed Cespedes opted out because he was frustrated over his slow start, Van Wagenen said he couldn’t comment on such speculation.

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Angels manager Joe Maddon won’t say whether he will move Hansel Robles out of the closing role. Hansel gave up two home runs against the Astros on Saturday.

“It’s disappointing for the fans and from my vantage point. Everyone enjoyed watching him at his best. He worked hard in his rehab. This is a disappointing end to his four-year agreement, but it wasn’t for lack of work ethic,” he said after the Mets’ fifth straight loss.

Cespedes had been the Mets’ designated hitter this season, taking advantage of a new rule this year that allows DHs in the National League.

Because he didn’t begin the season on the injured list with a foot injury, Cespedes’ salary rose from $2,222,222 prorated ($6 million before the schedule was shortened) to $4,074,074 ($11 million before the change).

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Cespedes was acquired in a trade with Detroit during the 2015 season and his power helped put the Mets into the World Series. An All-Star in 2016, he signed a $110 million, four-year deal after the season, but was never the same.


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