Mets' Yoenis Cespedes ready for a return, who sits in his place?

The Mets are getting Yoenis Cespedes back on Friday, giving them five healthy outfielders.

ATLANTA — Coming into spring training, much was made about the Mets’ battle for right field. Left field looked as though it was locked up by Yoenis Cespedes, center was held by Curtis Granderson and right field was a battle between Jay Bruce and Michael Conforto.

Conforto was expected to be the odd man out, banished to the minors to get at-bats every day. Hard to believe that was only a few short months ago. Now, Conforto and Bruce have both looked like all-stars, Cespedes has been out for more than a month and Juan Lagares and Graderson haven’t quite “gotten going,” as manager Terry Collins would say. 

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Battles for playing time tend to work themselves out just like they did this season, but now that Cespedes is set to come off the disabled list on Saturday, it appears as though the outfield overcrowding problem could become a problem once again. 

“We’ll flip-flop and move some guys around and try to get everybody some playing time,” manager Terry Collins said.

Collins said previously that he wanted to give Conforto some days off, citing fatigue in Cespedes’ fill-in. Conforto’s numbers did drop in May after a monster April, but he insisted that he was not, in fact, slumping and said he didn’t feel tired. 

“I feel great,” he told last week. “I want to be in there every day. I wouldn’t say I’m fatigued or anything, I think that’s just baseball and there’s little ups and downs and that’s it.”

Collins said that given Cespedes’ history of leg injuries, like the one that put him on the disabled list this season, they plan on being careful with the handling of his return, so a platoon in left field could be what the Mets are looking at temporarily. There is a plan in place, albeit a somewhat loose one.

At some point on Friday night or Saturday morning, Collins will hold court with all five outfielders and convey the plan to them to get everyone on the same page. 

“I do have a general idea,” Collins said. “But how accurate it’s going to be, we’re not sure yet.”

But platooning the two best bats doesn’t make sense long term. And neither does moving Jay Bruce to first base to spell Lucas Duda. While someone ultimately needs to sit, Collins is reluctant to sit Granderson in the middle of a hot streak. Granderson is hitting .308 with nine extra base hits and 10 RBIs in his last 21 games. 

The Mets have averaged 5.42 runs per game in Cespedes’ absence, so it’s safe to say they’ve managed fine without him. But Collins will now have to manage with him and figure out how to maximize the talent and the playing time. 

Abbey Mastracco may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @abbeymastracco. Find on Facebook.