Yoenis Cespedes’ uncertain return ends with huge bang

ATLANTA — Yoenis Cespedes was back in the Mets lineup Saturday, admittedly maybe not at full running strength, but his swing was the picture of perfection.

That was never more evident than in the ninth inning as he was driving Luke Jackson’s fastball over the left-center-field fence at SunTrust Park for a grand slam in the Mets’ 6-1 victory over the Braves in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

Cespedes finished 2-for-5 and played the entire game in left field in his return from hamstring and quadriceps injuries that had kept him on the disabled list since April 28.

“It’s not easy for any ballplayer to miss that much time and still have the timing down,” Cespedes said. “But in my case I have been playing for lots of years, so I just try to stay calm and look for good pitches.”

Said manager Terry Collins: “He showed us today he is a difference maker.”

Cespedes raised concerns before the game when discussing his running ability.

“I feel good, but I don’t know that I can run at 100 percent at this point,” Cespedes said.

But assistant general manager John Ricco indicated Cespedes passed his running tests before appearing in a rehab game for Single-A St. Lucie on Thursday, after which he was deemed ready for a return to the Mets.

Later, Cespedes said he wanted to clarify his comments.

“I don’t feel 100 percent, but I feel that I’m ready to play,” Cespedes said. “I don’t want to injure myself, but know that I wouldn’t go out there to play if I knew I could injure myself and that is how I went out there.”

Yoenis CespedesGetty Images

The Mets will use caution with Cespedes, giving him extra off days — he was not in the lineup for Game 2 of the doubleheader against the Braves and may also rest Sunday, according to Collins.

The manager took exception to the notion the Mets were taking a risk by playing Cespedes if he’s unsure he can run full-throttle.

“Have we done anything here but protect these guys?” Collins said. “This was a group decision that was made by the guys in Florida. Is he 100 percent? He may not be. But neither is Neil Walker. Neither is Jose Reyes. Neither are guys who are playing every day. If he gets hurt again, he gets hurt.”

Ultimately Cespedes says he will determine his own course in regards to playing time.

“Starting next week we’ll see if I feel 100 percent,” Cespedes said. “At that point I am not taking days off.”

In easily his best start of the season, Robert Gsellman fired 6 ²/₃ shutout innings in which he allowed three hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

Gsellman (5-3) won for the third time in four starts, a stretch in which he has posted a 2.16 ERA. After initial discussion about moving to the bullpen, Gsellman will remain a starter as part of the team’s six-man rotation that is expected to last at least the next 2 ½ weeks.

Addison Reed recorded the final five outs for his 10th save in 12 chances. He entered with the tying run at second and the go-ahead run at first in the eighth inning and struck out Matt Kemp before retiring Rio Ruiz to escape the mess, created in part by Jose Reyes’ fielding error.

Fernando Salas surrendered a homer to Brandon Phillips leading off the eighth after the Mets had taken a 2-1 lead the previous inning.

In his major league debut lefty Sean Newcombe held the Mets to one unearned run on four hits over 6 ¹/₃ innings. After adding a run against Jackson in the eighth, the Mets loaded the bases an inning later for Cespedes with one out. The grand slam was the Mets’ second this season.

“It’s great to have [Cespedes] in the lineup,” Gsellman said. “We need that bat.”