PORT ST. LUCIE — Yoenis Cespedes won’t discuss it, but Monday he resembled a baseball player again, even if only in one facet of the game.
Hours after telling reporters at his locker he won’t be speaking to the media this season, Cespedes was on a back field at Clover Park to take live batting practice against Michael Wacha and nearly homered. Then, with bullpen coach Ricky Bones on the mound for a more routine batting practice session, Cespedes pounded shots over the fence.
“He has got the same swing,” Robinson Cano said.
But then, noting that Cespedes missed the last 1 ½ seasons, Cano cautioned: “It doesn’t matter how he feels, we have got to understand we have got to give him time. It’s hard when you miss a month not playing and now when you miss two years how hard it is.”
Manager Luis Rojas indicated Cespedes is going through a “progression” and isn’t yet participating in full workouts with teammates. It remains unclear if he will be ready to begin the season with the club.
Cespedes arrived in camp well before Saturday’s official reporting date for position players, but team media relations officials indicated he would not speak to reporters for the first time since spring training 2019 until this week. But Cespedes issued only a brief message Monday when approached by a group of reporters who asked if he had a few minutes to talk.
“Not today, not tomorrow, not at all year this year,” Cespedes said.
“Because I don’t want to,” Cespedes said.
Cespedes, who is recovering from multiple right ankle fractures sustained after encountering a wild boar on his ranch last May, was asked if he could say how he was feeling. He declined.
Does Cespedes, who previously underwent surgery to remove calcifications from both heels, want to speak to the fans about how he is feeling?
“To my fans, maybe,” he said, before walking away.
Cespedes, who is entering the final year of his contract, agreed to a restructured deal for 2020 that guarantees him just $6 million (with incentives that could push the figure to $20 million). He was originally slated to earn $29.5 million, but took the pay cut to avoid the possibility his contract would be nullified by an arbitrator, following the incident with the wild boar on his ranch. Cespedes was keeping boar traps on the ranch, and sources indicated he was in the process of freeing the animal from one when the injury occurred, in an attempt to avoid an attack. As part of the restructuring, Cespedes’ contract was reduced from $29 million to $22.9 million in 2019. Cespedes signed a four-year contract worth $110 million after the 2016 seasons, but has appeared in only 129 games since then.
Cespedes was fooled by Wacha on his first swing of the day, sending his bat flying over the caged-in third base bench. Later, Cespedes hit a drive to left that cleared the fence in foul territory.
“Going back to the timing when he saw Wacha, he looked really good, almost like he hasn’t missed a beat facing pitchers,” Rojas said. “He’s taking the ball, he hit a shot that just went foul, a little bit out front, but he’s got so much power. The ball left the yard there on Field 7, so big day for him.”
Rojas was asked if he had any problems with his players not to speaking to the media.
“With Cespedes in particular, we are happy he went through the day today,” Rojas said. “It was a big day for him. He joined the guys and that’s where our focus is going to be with him, that he’s going through the day and he’s being able to progress into playing at some point, so we don’t have the timeline so we’re happy he did some activity with the rest of his teammates today.”