Bam! Ever cool Cespedes makes Mets debut
The slugging outfielder, acquired from Detroit in a trade-deadline deal Friday afternoon, was the model of cool Saturday before his first game with New York. He wore his new Mets cap backward and had on black t-shirt with an appropriate ''Bam!'' written across the front in cartoony lettering, a thick chain peeking out from under the collar.
''I think I'm just going to go out there and do what I always do,'' he said, ''and work hard and hopefully help the team.''
He'll get his first shot Saturday night as the No. 3 hitter, playing left field, thrust into a crucial series for the Mets. They are facing the rival Washington Nationals, who lead New York by two games in the NL East.
To make room for Cespedes, the Mets sent top prospect Michael Conforto to Triple-A Las Vegas. Conforto was playing at Double-A Binghamton when he was promoted.
The Mets are Cespedes' fourth team since last season, and he's performed well wherever he's played. He hit .293 with 18 home runs and 61 RBIs in 102 games for the Tigers.
''We know that he's powerful, and he's got some pull-pop,'' Nationals manager Matt Williams said. ''He's an exceptional left fielder, he's got a great arm, he's gonna be inserted right into the middle of their lineup, so we'll have to deal with him.''
Cespedes gives New York the big bat it has been chasing for some time to help boost its foundering offense that ranks last in the league in runs and batting average.
''You're coming in and you're writing some pretty impressive names in the lineup,'' he said. ''And this is no disrespect to our young players that have been here, because without the way they've played we still wouldn't be where we are. Those kids played very, very hard.
''But you're writing some legitimate major league names in the lineup - guys who've got track records that they get it done here,'' he added.
Collins put Cespedes in his familiar spot in left field Saturday to allow the Cuban star a chance to get acclimated to New York. But Collins said Cespedes will see regular time in center, a position he played in Cuba and 48 games with Oakland as a rookie in 2012. He played a handful of games there last season with the A's before being traded to Boston at the trade deadline.
Curtis Granderson started in center Saturday for only the second time this season. Juan Lagares, the Gold Glover who has lost playing time in center because of his struggles at the plate will be mostly a defensive replacement.
Cespedes, who won the All-Star Home Run Derby at Citi Field in 2013, is ready for the challenge of playing in demanding New York, in front of a fan base desperate for a winning team.
''I really like playing in front of a big crowd. I think it drives me, it pushes me to do better, to play better, to push myself more,'' he said. ''I'm looking forward to it.''