WASHINGTON — The search is underway for Yoenis Cespedes’ legs.
As the Mets look toward next season with their $110 million investment in left field, it has become obvious to most in the organization — Cespedes included — that a new approach is needed to keep him in the lineup.
Cespedes was placed on the disabled list Saturday with his latest leg ailment, a strained right hamstring that may keep him sidelined for the remainder of 2017.
Already, Cespedes spent six weeks on the disabled list this season with a strained left hamstring, after last year hitting the DL with discomfort in his quadriceps.
“I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do, but we all know I need to make some changes, so that is what I am going to do,” Cespedes said.
But the Mets’ star outfielder also made it clear he wasn’t pinning responsibility on the team’s senior advisor for strength and conditioning, Mike Barwis, and he will search for answers within his current workout program.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily different methods,” Cespedes said. “It doesn’t mean I am not going to be there working with Barwis. I think it just means that with him we are going to look at doing some different exercises.”
In 81 games this season, the 31-year-old Cespedes has a .292/.352/.540 slash line with 17 homers and 42 RBIs. His absence further depletes an outfield that lost Michael Conforto earlier in the week to a torn posterior capsule in his left shoulder that may necessitate surgery.
The injuries have created an opportunity for Travis Taijeron, who arrived Saturday from Triple-A Las Vegas and was inserted into the lineup as the right fielder against the Nationals for his major league debut.
The 28-year-old Taijeron has averaged 23 homers in his three seasons at Las Vegas, but saw his path to the big leagues blocked by corner outfielders such as Cespedes, Conforto, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce.
“It’s hard not to get frustrated, but you can’t control it,” said Taijeron, the Mets’ 18th-round pick in the 2011 draft.
Taijeron whiffs plenty —he averaged 151 strikeouts in his three seasons at Las Vegas — but the Mets will take the trade off if it means adding a power bat to the lineup.
Even so, manager Terry Collins indicated he may push for a more wide-open offensive strategy, keeping runners active on the bases, instead of waiting around for home runs. The Mets entered play leading the NL with 188 homers.
“You have got to do what the strength of the team is, and when your team is powerful you hit homers,” Collins said. “If you don’t have that you have to create some runs some other ways.”
The absence of Conforto and Cespedes leaves the Mets with no true backup outfielders, but infielders Matt Reynolds and Jose Reyes can be shifted to the outfield as needed. For Reyes, it might be an opportunity to enhance his value as he attempts to show he’s worthy of a return to the Mets next season.
But ideally, the Mets would like to take an extended look at players such as Brandon Nimmo and Taijeron to see how they might fit for 2018.
“I have no plan yet,” Collins said. “We are just going to mix and match and see if we can get Jose out there.”
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