NEW YORK -- Yoenis Cespedes' cranky right quadriceps has flared up, prompting manager Terry Collins to hold the slugger out of the Mets' lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Colorado Rockies and potentially beyond.
Cespedes was used as a pinch hitter in the seventh inning on Thursday, but Collins said he knew the Rockies intended to intentionally walk Cespedes before sending him to the plate. Cespedes immediately was replaced by pinch runner Steven Matz in the Mets' 2-1 loss.
After delivering a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh inning Wednesday night in an eventual 5-4 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Cespedes complained to Collins about renewed leg soreness.
"Last night he came in when the game was over and said it was starting to bother him pretty bad," Collins said.
Cespedes originally injured the quadriceps on July 8. He missed more than a week, including skipping the All-Star Game. As a concession to try to keep Cespedes in the lineup upon his return, the Mets abandoned using him in center field, even though that has created complications with how to fill the position.
However, limiting Cespedes to left field -- which requires less running than center field -- has not sufficiently allowed the leg issue to subside.
The loss of Cespedes, potentially for multiple days, removes the Mets' most fearsome bat and further depletes the lineup.
Third baseman Jose Reyes is likewise active but unavailable because of a strained intercostal on his left side. Reyes injured the muscle in Game 1 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Cardinals. The Mets had hoped Reyes would be capable of returning to the lineup Friday, but Collins now portrays that target as improbable.
"He was pretty sore last night when he left here," Collins said Wednesday.
Collins said it was unfortunate that Cespedes would have to sit against a southpaw, but the manager concluded that it was just not worth risking having Cespedes blow out the muscle.
Collins opted to start Alejandro De Aza in left field over Conforto in Cespedes' absence because of Conforto's struggles against left-handed pitching. Conforto is hitting .091 (4-for-44) against southpaws this season.
Restricting Cespedes to left field has forced the Mets against right-handed pitching to use Conforto in center field for the first time in his professional career.
"One of the things we talked about after Ces said he didn't think he could play was, 'We have got to find out if this guy is going to be able to hit left-handers,'" Collins said about Conforto. "As we look back on his season so far, if it wasn't for his struggles against left-handers, his numbers wouldn't be as bad as they look. And so we just said, 'He's got a lot on his plate. We need to try to score some runs. We need to win this game.' We've pronounced it enough that, hey, these are big games now -- every one of them -- that we thought we'd put somebody in [left field] who we think is going to have a little bit better chance to get some hits.
"There certainly can be an argument on the other side that this guy [Conforto] is the future here. 'He's the prospect. You've got to get him in there against some left-handed pitching or else he's not going to hit left-handed pitching.' I certainly understand that. But right now, as I've said before, I think we've got to give ourselves the best opportunity to try to win this game today. And he's just struggled against lefties, so we thought we'd go with the other guy."
Collins noted that the Mets will have the use of a designated hitter during five straight games in American League ballparks beginning Wednesday -- at Yankee Stadium, then in Detroit. Cespedes likely will serve as the DH in the bulk, if not all of those games to keep him off his legs as much as possible.
Cespedes is hitting .297 with 22 homers and 58 RBIs in 320 at-bats this season. His arrival at last year's non-waiver trade deadline helped propel the Mets to become the first team in MLB history to reach the World Series after ranking last in the majors in runs scored on July 31.
"He's a huge piece," Collins said. "You look at what he's done, and you take those home runs and those RBIs out of the middle of our lineup, and it's tough to replace it."