PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Yoenis Cespedes candidly acknowledged he prefers playing left field. But he insists he is fully on board with manning center field against right-handed pitching for the New York Mets during the upcoming season.
After three games at designated hitter to begin Grapefruit League play, Cespedes started in center field Wednesday against the New York Yankees. He logged five innings at the position and went 2-for-3 with an RBI at the plate as the Mets played the Yankees at Tradition Field.
“If I had the choice, I would stay in left field. But I will play where the team needs me,” Cespedes told ESPN’s Marly Rivera in Spanish. “If they want me to play center field, I'll play center field, and I'll do the best I can.”
Cespedes noted that center field was his original position in Cuba.
“When I came here [to MLB] in 2012, I started playing center field. But that same year I moved to left field,” he said. “That was a little difficult, but I got used to it already. Now I feel much more comfortable in left field. But my mind, and I've always said, if you are a good outfielder, you can play most positions.”
Cespedes is expected to start in left field against left-handed pitching, when Juan Lagares is slated to start in center field.
Cespedes added about center field: "The path of the ball is very different. In center field you have more time, but the ball travels more. I have to get back that sense of the direction of the ball when it comes off the bat.”
Cespedes now is batting .364 (4-for-11) with three RBIs through four Grapefruit League starts.
He hit .287 with 17 homers and 44 RBIs in 57 regular-season games after joining the Mets in 2015 but slowed down significantly during the playoffs. He was 3-for-20 with one RBI against the Kansas City Royals during the World Series.
Cespedes cited fatigue as a factor.
"I think I just could not keep that up,” Cespedes said about his regular-season production. “Like [hitting coach] Kevin Long has said, ‘It would have been practically impossible.’ I have been in the majors four years, but nonetheless, you get tired playing every day. When I was in the American League, if I felt tired, I asked for a day off and played as a DH. In the National League, there’s no DH and I have to play every day -- whether I am tired or not -- because my job is to help the team. I think that happened to me.”