“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.
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 water bottle or a bottle of electrolyte fluid at his locker. During a recent game against the Marlins in Miami, he entered the dugout after being in the field 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.
“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.
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.
If the Mets players need a reminder to drink water, 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.
In Cespedes’s case, at least, there is too much at stake for the Mets not to figure out what that mix is.