Mets slugger Céspedes leaves team, opts out of 2020 season

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New York Mets' Yoenis Cespedes reacts after striking out against the Atlanta Braves during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 25, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

ATLANTA – When the New York Mets finally found out Yoenis Céspedes was OK, they suddenly learned something else: The slugger had opted out of playing the rest of this season.

Hours after Céspedes didn’t report to the ballpark without explanation, the Mets discovered in the late innings of Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Atlanta that he wouldn’t be back this year because of coronavirus concerns.

“I am very surprised,” first-year manager Luis Rojas said. “Him and I have had conversations regularly about playing time, where he was going to hit in the lineup, building him up in the outfield.”

“Nothing like this, so this is definitely a surprise,” he said.

Céspedes went 0 for 4 during a 7-1 loss Saturday night in Atlanta. He is 5 for 31 (.161) with 15 strikeouts this season.

The Mets sent out a statement from general manager Brodie Van Wagenen in the early innings Sunday saying they couldn’t find Céspedes. Van Wagenen said the organization was later notified by Céspedes’ agent that he had decided to opt out for “for COVID-related reasons.”

Céspedes joined Giants catcher Buster Posey, Dodgers pitcher David Price and Washington infielder Ryan Zimmerman in opting out this season, all of them announcing their decisions before the virus-shortened 60-game season began in late July. Atlanta outfielder Nick Markakis also chose not to play this year, then changed his mind.

A two-time All-Star outfielder, the 34-year-old Céspedes celebrated his long-awaited return to the lineup with a home run on opening day that lifted the Mets over the Braves 1-0 at Citi Field.