Mets LF Yoenis Cespedes clears it up: He wants the ring

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Monday, March 27, 2017

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- 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 an interpreter on Monday. "The MVP thing, that's obviously a goal, but that's not really what I go out there in mind with."

He 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 NL 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 honors aren't as important to him as a successful postseason for his team.

"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.

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 in the 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 some 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.