ATLANTA — Yoenis Cespedes wishes he knew how to quit golf.
Yes, it sounds like La Potencia will be spotted soon enough at a course near you.
Moments after he delivered his sixth go-ahead RBI of the season Friday night — a 12th-inning single that led the Mets to a 5-3 victory over the Braves at SunTrust Park — the Mets’ highest-paid player attributed his odd, statistically unimpressive opening stretch to stopping the golf habit that had caused him and his employers considerable agita. So the left fielder said he might very well resume that activity in the name of saving his primary job.
“It wasn’t a promise, but one of the things was, I went to play golf in the morning and then I came to play baseball in the afternoon,” Cespedes said through an interpreter. “I stopped doing it in the offseason. But I think I’m considering playing golf again.”
Cespedes’ love of golf generated the most heat in 2016, when he was found to be playing even as an injury kept him off the field. At that juncture, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson called the situation “bad optics” and asked Cespedes to cease playing golf until it became less controversial.
These largely uncontroversial 2018 Mets raised their record to 14-5 Friday when Cespedes’ game-winning base hit, a modest knock through the second-base hole into right field, scored speedy Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman from second to break a 3-3 tie. Cespedes subsequently scored an insurance run on Asdrubal Cabrera’s double. The hit followed four straight strikeouts, and it sent Cespedes back to his hotel with an underwhelming .208/.274/.377 slash line on the season. Nevertheless, of those six game-winning RBIs, three — this one, an April 8 single against the Nationals in the 12th inning and an April 10 double against the Marlins in the ninth inning — rank among the Mets’ biggest hits to date.
“It’s interesting, I think,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said of Cespedes’ year. “Big hits and three wins mean a lot to a team. Probably more than if he was hitting .340. So I guess we’ll take it and I think he will, too. He just wants to go out there and win games.”
Yet Cespedes didn’t pretend to be satisfied with his season so far.
“I’m still lost” at the plate, he said, adding, “Some stats are good. Some stats are not that good. I’m sure that will change as the season goes.”
Especially if he gets the clubs back out.
“One of the things that I did before, years ago, when I was in a slump, was playing golf and trying to get out of my slump,” he said. “I said this season I wouldn’t go to play golf. So one of the things that I’m doing now, that I didn’t do before, is watching the videos. That’s something different I’m doing right now. But unfortunately, it’s not going too well so far.”
In the past, Cespedes said, he would watch video of one previous at-bat against the night’s opposing starting pitcher to prepare. This year, he has been watching video of his magical 2015 stay with the Mets.
“I’m trying to compare what I did in that season with what I’m doing right now just to make an adjustment,” he said.
Back then, he was playing golf.
“Now I’m opening my shoulder wide open,” he said. “When I was playing golf, I had to keep my hands inside. It helped me a lot.”