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Yoenis Cespedes prefers sticking to left field for remainder of season

PHILADELPHIA -- Yoenis Cespedes should exclusively play left field for the next few days with the New York Mets. If Cespedes has his way, though, he would remain there and avoid center field for the rest of the season.

“If they give me the option, I’ll stay in left field,” Cespedes said through an interpreter after going 0-for-3 with a walk in Sunday’s 5-0 rubber-game win against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Cespedes returned to the lineup for the series finale at Citizens Bank Park after being sidelined for eight days with a strained right quadriceps muscle. Manager Terry Collins had advised Cespedes to wait until Monday’s game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field to return to the lineup if he needed an extra day, but Cespedes told the manager he was prepared to play on Sunday.

“I don’t think I’m at 100 percent,” Cespedes said after the game. “I’m probably around 80 to 90 percent. But I can hold myself up to play. In the outfield I felt OK. I think at home plate my timing is a little off.”

Cespedes’ desire to only play left field has dual motivations. That’s where he won an American League Gold Glove for his time with the Detroit Tigers last season. And it is less taxing on the balky quadriceps muscle.

“I’d rather play left field because I feel more comfortable,” Cespedes said. “And also it’s less work on my leg.”

If Cespedes does stick to left field, though, it presents a challenge for Collins.

Michael Conforto, who is due to rejoin the Mets on Monday after a 16-game demotion to Triple-A Las Vegas, presumably would have to see action in right field. And if Conforto is in right field, that presumably would mean Curtis Granderson would have to either sit or man center field, where he has not played much in recent years.

Juan Lagares and Alejandro De Aza are experienced center fielders. And Lagares has started to play more frequently against right-handed pitching. But if Lagares remains in the lineup against right-handers and Cespedes plays too, that means Conforto or Granderson is sitting.

Conforto did start four games during his minor league stint in right field as the Mets got him acclimated to the position.