NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes stood, somewhat begrudgingly and somewhat triumphantly, at his locker Saturday afternoon, to declare himself fully healthy. A relaxing All-Star break had helped alleviate his nagging left hamstring, enough so that he excelled in Friday's second-half opener without a protective brace strapped around his thigh.
Which was why there was some whiplash to seeing the slugger stand at the locker again mere hours later, after New York's 9-3 win over the Rockies, explaining yet another lower-half ailment.
This time it's his hip, which Cespedes tweaked after jamming his knee while attempting a sliding catch in the sixth inning. The contusion is unrelated to the muscle strains that have nagged his legs for the better part of a year, and Cespedes said he left the game more as a precaution with the score as lopsided as it was.
"I think I could have definitely kept on playing," Cespedes said. "Because of the score of the game, we decided to play it safe."
But the slugger's early exit again dampened what, on all other accounts, should have been a celebratory night in Queens, with the Mets well on their way to their second straight rout. And it perpetuated a disconcerting pattern between dynamic lateral movement and Cespedes' delicate lower half the Mets know they must continue to treat cautiously.
Mets manager Terry Collins did not start Cespedes on Sunday, though the slugger said he could play if needed.
"If it's a matter of being able to play, I'm able to play," Cespedes said. "If he wants to give me that day off, I'd gladly take that day off and rest."
With the Mets up, 8-0, in the sixth, Cespedes sprinted toward the line to track what ended up as a bloop double off the bat of Nolan Arenado. Cespedes went into a slide, catching his right knee on the soft outfield grass. He created a divot in the grass, stopped short and tumbled, before dropping the ball. Cespedes retrieved the ball, which had skipped toward the wall, and after a conference with the training staff, left the field under his own power.
Cespedes has routinely been hampered by nagging leg injuries throughout his career, and has now missed significant time during each of the past two seasons due to the ailments. Last season came the barking quad, this year the strained hamstring in late April. Cespedes continued to play through nicks and cramps since returning from the disabled list June 10, but entered Saturday having hit just .287/.309/.436 with three home runs over that span. Meanwhile, playing at not-quite-full-strength limited his baserunning and fielding.
He stood at his locker Saturday afternoon hoping that was in the past, feeling reenergized in his body and at the plate. Before exiting Saturday, Cespedes opened the second half 5-for-9, using his speed to leg out multiple hits.
"I don't think its real serious with Ces, but certainly, if he's out for a period of time, we'll do the best we can," Collins said. "Do I think we can? Yeah. We have to."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.