PORT ST. LUCIE – Yoenis Cespedes avoided all talk about wild boars Sunday, but otherwise was willing to answer questions from reporters for the first time this spring.
The Mets outfielder, who last week indicated he wouldn’t speak to the media this season, broke his silence, saying his focus was on the future. Cespedes was rehabbing last May from surgery on both heels when he sustained multiple right ankle fractures during an encounter with a wild boar on his ranch, as first reported by The Post. At the time it’s believed Cespedes was freeing the animal from a boar trap he had set.
“I am not going to speak about the past,” Cespedes said. “I committed an error and paid the price for it, but today I will be talking about the present and the future.”
Cespedes has been working out with the team in spring training and indicated his goal is to begin playing in Grapefruit League games by mid-March, with the intent of starting the season with the Mets. The veteran outfielder has missed the last 1 ½ seasons sidelined by ailments.
In the final year of his contract, Cespedes is guaranteed only $6 million this season. He originally was slated to earn $29.5 million, but his deal was restructured to avoid a hearing in front of an arbitrator following the incident with the wild boar that could have voided the contract. The new contract contains incentives that could boost its value to $20 million.
“I think the money is important, but regardless I was going to come in with the same motivation whether the money was the same or any different,” Cespedes said. “A big part of the motivation is the people who have been out there and have been saying that I can’t do it. So I am going out there to prove that I can.”
Cespedes indicated the surgeries to remove calcifications from both heels has been the tougher rehab than the ankle fractures. He says he’s been awakening at 5 a.m. every day since September to rehab and receive treatment.
During the offseason, ESPN’s Eduardo Perez – who was a Mets managerial candidate – indicated he spoke to Cespedes and the outfielder said if he’s healthy he can hit 40 homers this season. Cespedes didn’t back away from that notion Sunday.
“I think if my legs are healthy, I think it’s possible,” Cespedes said. “It’s all dependent on my legs. I think when it comes to hitting, that is one of the things I’m not worried about, because that is one of the skills you never forget.”
Cespedes said he’s running at 80 percent. He indicated he’s 90-95 percent defensively.
“I feel good. I am happy with the progress,” Cespedes said. “Every day I am still working to get better and better. It’s not as fast as I want it to be, but as the season approaches I feel really good right now.”
Asked about his motivation level, on a scale of 1-10, Cespedes replied: “12.”