This Yoenis Cespedes injury has turned into a real Mets mess

Yoenis Cespedes was absent from Tuesday’s starting lineup — and could be left out of several more.

Cespedes, who had been playing through what he believed to be a quad injury, underwent an MRI on Tuesday, which revealed the Mets slugger has a mild strain of his right hip. Cespedes, who was available to pinch-hit, will be evaluated over the next few days to determine whether he will require a stint on the disabled list.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays at Citi Field, the outfielder had appeared in every game this season. Last week, he believed the injury was improving, but Cespedes informed the team Tuesday he hadn’t felt any progress since Sunday.

“It’s the same lingering injury,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “What we decided, in the best interest of him for the moment, take him out of the lineup. … We’ll monitor things over the next day or two and see how things go.”

Cespedes had been praised by new manager Mickey Callaway over the weekend for “gutting it out” — after hitting a home run Sunday in Philadelphia — but the Mets are hoping to avoid the mistakes of seasons past, when the outfielder played through injuries, which often led to extended absences.

The 32-year-old was limited to 81 games last season with hamstring injuries and battled a quad injury in 2016.

Alderson spoke with Cespedes about the possibility of going on the DL, and the general manager said the outfielder is “prepared to be realistic” about the situation.

“We’re very mindful that at some point this can’t continue,” Alderson said. “We’re better off taking a more cautionary approach. … He’s still functional, and this is not a typical injury where running or what have you will lead to greater injury, but we are gonna be careful.”

The Mets could have been even more careful and been without Cespedes for fewer games than usual, since the team has had three days off — including Saturday’s postponement in Philadelphia — since Thursday.

Now, if Cespedes ends up on the DL, the Mets can only backdate the stint to May 14. Because of that, Callaway said he will not use Cespedes as a pinch-hitter, unless the manager deems the at-bat absolutely necessary.

“We have to definitely take that into consideration,” Callaway said of a potential backdate. “We have to have an obvious chance to win the game if we’re gonna use [him]. … and that’s how I’ll approach it.”

This season, Cespedes leads the Mets with eight home runs and 28 RBIs and is batting .255. While playing through the injury over part of that span, he has been even better, batting .360 (18-for-50) with three homers, while reaching base safely in 15 of the past 16 games he’s started.

The Mets aren’t ready to be without his bat. They also don’t know if it’s worth using it.

“Partly what we want to do is make sure that we’re reading [Cespedes] correctly, we understand what the full extent of the injury is, the degree to which it’s improving or not improving,” Alderson said. “So from our standpoint, particularly with the days off, we’ve been trying to take advantage of those. We’ll make a decision in the next couple days in that regard.”

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