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Cespedes homers in return to Mets, could be moved to first

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

By RONALD BLUM

AP Baseball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) Yoenis Cespedes homered in his return to the New York Mets, who said he could be shifted to first base later this season.

Cespedes had been out two months with a strained right hip flexor. He flied out in the first inning against the Yankees, then hit a drive down the left-field line against Domingo German with a 3-0 count leading off the third. Cespedes didn't run at first, apparently thinking it would be an out or a foul ball, but the ball glance off the foul side of the foul pole for his ninth home run.

Cespedes has appeared in just 118 of the Mets' 256 games since he signed a $110 million, four-year contract, primarily because of lower-body ailments. The 32-year-old was the designated hitter in the series opener, likely will DH on Saturday and could return to the outfield on Sunday.

Playing first base is a bit off.

"I don't know that I can say exactly when," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "I think he needs more reps, practicing, feels more comfortable around the bag and things like that."

New York thinks Cespedes' body might benefit from a switch to the infield.

"One of the thoughts about first base is that he's going to stay hot the whole game because he's moving around all the time," Callaway said. "There's not that component of standing out in left field for five, six minutes and all of a sudden having to sprint 30 yards and dive and make a catch. So we're really trying to determine that, to make sure that's the best spot for him."

Cespedes' absence contributed to the downfall of the Mets. New York went 20-36 without him and fell into last place in the NL East. Despite an 11-1 start, the Mets started the second half with the fewest wins in the National League.

Cespedes had a two-game minor league rehabilitation assignment this week with the Gulf Coast Mets and went 2 for 8 with a three-run homer.

"There might be some times where Ces, moving forward, where Ces is a late scratch because the performance staff and myself doesn't think he's in a great spot to get through the game healthy," Callaway said. "If he looks tired or run down a little bit, there might be a time where he's a late scratch and it'll be because we determined that it would be more risky to send him out there that day."

New York also recalled right-hander Drew Smith from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned infielder Dominic Smith and right-hander Corey Oswalt to the Pacific Coast League farm team.

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Updated July 20, 2018

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