PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Mets cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes was glad to come clean: He wants the ring.
Sure, an MVP trophy would be great. But winning a World Series championship would be better.
Interviews from earlier this month had the Cuban slugger angling for the MVP as his primary goal. That’s not his focus, he said.
“I want to clear that up because I know that was mentioned from a few interviews,” Cespedes said through a translator Monday. “The MVP thing, that’s obviously a goal, but that’s not really what I go out there in mind with.”
Cespedes was eighth in NL MVP voting last year — his highest finish of his five-year career — after his 31 home runs and 86 RBIs helped the Mets reach the wild-card game.
The talk of him possibly having an MVP season, his 2015 Gold Glove Award and 2016 Silver Slugger Award — all of those fall behind a postseason featuring success in blue and orange, he said.
“What I go out in mind with is helping the team win,” Cespedes said. “The team comes first. I like to prepare and will continue to prepare as if it (the MVP) is one of my goals. But the team comes first, then (MVP). If that comes, great. If not, so be it.
“We know we can win a World Series,” he said.
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The 31-year-old Cespedes looks the part of a superstar who can literally carry a club during a pennant chase. His chiseled body is more massive and pronounced than ever, a product of dedication and his early arrival at the complex’s nearby training facility.
“I’ve been working on trying to keep my legs healthy and strong. Any injury I’ve had has usually been with my legs,” said Cespedes, who missed time last season with a quadriceps injury. “I’ve worked on that so I can last throughout the season. I definitely feel bigger.”
His mental comfort settled in once he put his name on a four-year, $110 million contract the Mets offered in late November after he opted out of his New York deal earlier that month.
Now, after being shipped from Oakland to Boston to Detroit to New York in his first four years, the two-time All-Star knows Citi Field will be home for a long time.
“I think your mind is really like the fundamental basis of this game. Just knowing that I’m going to be here for a while is just one less thing on my mind,” Cespedes said.
Michael Conforto might be in the outfield beside Cespedes to start the season. Conforto could break camp with the Mets due to center fielder Juan Lagares’s left oblique injury sustained Saturday.
The 24-year-old Conforto, who would be the third lefty-hitting outfielder on the roster, enjoys watching Cespedes play and admires his approach to the game and life.
“His work ethic this year is off the charts,” Conforto said. “He’s taken a leadership role (in the outfield). He’s all about having fun out there and making plays. And he’s a fun-loving guy. He’s got his own ranch and works on his own property.
“He’s really one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met,” he said.
• LHP Steven Matz (elbow) threw 55 tosses off flat ground, alternating between 70 and 150 feet. Pitching coach Dan Warthen wants to shorten his extension. “I’m just trying to get back to my natural arm slot. I had a good day of throwing,” Matz said. He did not know his upcoming work schedule.
• RHP Zack Wheeler tossed five scoreless innings against Miami in the Mets’ 5-0 split-squad win in Jupiter. “I think today I proved that I am ready,” Wheeler told reporters. “I knew today was a big day for me. I did the best that I could and we’ll leave it up to them and what they want to do, where they want to go and how they want to handle it.”
• RHP Seth Lugo worked 4 1/3 innings and gave up four runs on eight hits, including three solo homers — two by Trea Turner, one by Bryce Harper — in a 6-0 split-squad home loss to the Nationals. Harper added a two-run shot in the eighth off RHP Paul Sewald.
• LF Tim Tebow went 0-for-4, striking out swinging twice against Washington’s Max Scherzer, last year’s NL Cy Young winner. Both at-bats featured 97 mph fastballs.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)