2017-07-04 21:28:03
Keeping the Oft-Injured Cespedes Healthy May Be as Easy as H2O

21:28, July 04 264 0

WASHINGTON — Just before batting practice began during a recent Mets game in Los Angeles, Yoenis Cespedes carried a large metal water bottle out to the dugout at Dodger Stadium. Several days later, Cespedes stuffed two bottles of water into each pocket of his shorts before heading to the indoor batting cages at Marlins Park in Miami.

For many major leaguers, this would be normal behavior, especially with summer weather in full force. But for Cespedes, who admits his hydration regimen was lacking until now, this is new territory, and is something that the Mets feel is important for him to maintain.

“I’m not a big water drinker,” Cespedes said recently in Spanish. “Since I got hurt, I’ve been drinking more water. I think this will help me.”

Yet it is not a foolproof plan. Cespedes, 31, felt cramping in his right hamstring Monday when he made a sliding attempt to catch the game-winning single by Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Raburn in the Mets’ 3-2 loss. So as a precaution, Mets Manager Terry Collins overruled Cespedes’s desire to start Tuesday’s 11 a.m. game, an 11-4 loss to the Nationals, which began about 13 hours after the end of Monday’s game at Nationals Park.

“I cannot afford to have him blow out that hammy again and he’s out for two months,” Collins said, adding later: “It’s hot and it’s humid. Dehydration is an issue.”

While Cespedes recovered from a left hamstring strain earlier this season, an injury that cost him six weeks, the Mets tried to determine why their best everyday player had sustained yet another leg injury.

The Mets had his lower back examined to see if it was contributing to his leg injuries. They also took a close look at Cespedes’s pregame routine, particularly how much fluid he consumed, and decided both matters needed to be addressed.

The team was mindful that since Cespedes defected from Cuba and reached the major leagues in 2012, he had landed on the disabled list four times with leg problems. And those were only the major injuries; the tally does not include instances in which Cespedes missed only a few games because his legs hurt.

Last year, Cespedes missed nearly three weeks with a nagging right quadriceps strain. This year, the left hamstring injury claimed 40 games.

So the Mets have become more proactive. When Cespedes traveled to the team’s spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to work on recovering from the hamstring strain, team officials told him he needed to increase his water intake and change his pregame approach.

General Manager Sandy Alderson said the effort was spearheaded by Mike Barwis, who was given full oversight over the Mets’ strength and conditioning programs before the 2015 season.

“It’s not just water,” Alderson said. “It’s the stretching. It’s the running. It’s the variety of pregame aspects of his routine that have changed.”

Cespedes spent last winter working out at Barwis’s private facility, which is at the Port St. Lucie complex and near his off-season home in Vero Beach, Fla. A barrel-chested outfielder who is built more like a linebacker, Cespedes is known more for his exceptional strength than for his speed. A video posted to the team’s official social media accounts before the season showed Cespedes squatting 900 pounds at Barwis’s facility.

Cespedes has said that he spent the winter trying to improve his legs. Despite that, he still got hurt again.

When Cespedes returned to Florida with a bad hamstring this spring, he and Barwis started anew. Alderson credited Barwis for many of the changes to Cespedes’s regimen — and for persuading him to stick with them.

Cespedes returned from the disabled list on June 10 and said then that his revised pregame routine was so extensive that it took him as much as an hour to complete. The new regimen is focused on improving the flexibility of his legs, back and hips. Cespedes said that he had not done this type of pregame preparation before.

“They are things that he needs to be doing that he’s now doing,” Alderson said. “Whether that will have an impact or not, we’ll find out. But it should be expected to be a positive.”

The change in Cespedes’s consumption of liquids is evident. He often can be found with a silver water bottle or a bottle of electrolyte fluid at his locker. During a recent game against the Marlins in steamy South Florida, Cespedes entered the dugout after being in the field, set his cap and glove down and immediately drank a mixture of water and Gatorade.

Cespedes estimated that his water intake had increased nearly fivefold. He admitted that he did not drink much water before, out of habit and because it “doesn’t taste like anything.”

“I didn’t like it,” Cespedes said. “But now, they’re helping me with Gatorade. At least, that has taste and that way I can drink more water.”

Jose Reyes, one of Cespedes’s closest friends on the team, endured many leg injuries earlier in his career and has offered advice to Cespedes on how to deal with them. Among those tips, Reyes said, has been reminding Cespedes to drink more water.

“He’s always giving me advice because he’s had this stuff before,” Cespedes said. “He reminds me that water is good for the muscles and I need to be hydrated. Sometimes I pay attention. Sometimes I don’t.”

Drinking more water sounds like a simple solution, but Collins said that the team felt it had become necessary to remind players to be more aware of hydration when they were at Marlins Park last week. Dehydration is associated with muscle strains, and despite a closed stadium roof during the three-game series in Miami, it was a humid environment that had many Mets players sweating liberally.

Collins speculated that perhaps a lack of hydration in that series was a factor in the leg stiffness felt by infielder Wilmer Flores; the cramping of infielder Asdrubal Cabrera; and a hamstring strain that knocked the starter Robert Gsellman out of a game. Additionally, utility man T. J. Rivera exited Tuesday’s game early with leg cramping. While three of the injuries were minor, Gsellman’s muscle pull could cost him several weeks.

“Sometimes it’s hard and you don’t really remember you need to drink more water,” catcher Rene Rivera said.

If the Mets players need a reminder, they only have to turn their attention to outfielder Curtis Granderson. Granderson, 36, is the oldest player on the team and plays center field, one of baseball’s most demanding positions.

Granderson drinks at least 12 bottles of water a day. He also swims and has cut back on his weight lifting in the off-season, and he recently returned to stretching after games to combat soreness. Granderson has not been on the disabled list with a soft-tissue injury since 2010, although he is currently battling hip muscle discomfort, which emerged this past weekend and has limited him to pinch-hitting duties for now.

“It’s about finding a good mix of what works for you,” Granderson said. “Some people say that they’re hydrated, but still need electrolytes. Some people say they’re overstretching. Some people, they’re not stretching enough. It’s all on the individual.”

In Cespedes’s case, at least, there is too much at stake for the Mets not to adjust.