NEW YORK — Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes was out of the lineup Tuesday night because of a strained right hip flexor and could be headed to the disabled list.
A precautionary MRI showed a mild strain, the team said. Brandon Nimmo was set to play left field in Cespedes' place against the Toronto Blue Jays in a game delayed by rain at the start.
Cespedes was available to pinch-hit, but New York manager Mickey Callaway said he would only use him in "an obvious chance to win the game."
General manager Sandy Alderson said the club will decide in the next couple of days whether to put Cespedes on the 10-day DL. Alderson said he spoke to Cespedes about that possibility and the All-Star outfielder was "prepared to be realistic about his situation."
"We'll monitor things over the next day or two and see how things go," Alderson said. "Partly what we want to do is make sure that we're reading Ces correctly. We understand exactly what the full extent of the injury is, the degree to which it's improving or not improving."
Cespedes has been dealing with the nagging injury for more than a week, though he's described it as discomfort in his quadriceps.
"At some point, this can't continue — and that's true not just with Ces but with all of our players. We're better off taking a more cautionary approach," Alderson said. "So, today I think we're going to continue to monitor the situation, but he has not shown any improvement over the last couple of days. Now, he's still functional. And this is not a typical injury where running or what have you is necessarily going to lead to greater injury. But we're going to be careful."
The 32-year-old Cespedes homered in New York's previous game Sunday at Philadelphia and was batting .255 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs. After signing a $110 million, four-year contract in November 2016, he was limited to 81 games last season by leg injuries.
Losing Cespedes for any extended period would be a major blow to the slumping Mets, already minus injured third baseman Todd Frazier and catchers Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.
Frazier (strained left hamstring) is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list Friday, but d'Arnaud is out for the season following Tommy John surgery and Plawecki has been sidelined since April 12 with a broken left hand.
Following an 11-1 start, New York had dropped 17 of 25 — including nine of its last 11. The Mets had scored three or fewer runs in four straight games and nine of the past 11.
In positive news, right fielder Jay Bruce was back in the lineup after returning Monday from paternity leave.
New York also recalled left-hander Buddy Baumann and right-hander Jacob Rhame from Triple-A Las Vegas. Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins was placed on the paternity leave list and right-hander Corey Oswalt was optioned to Las Vegas.
Jacob deGrom (3-0, 1.83 ERA) will start Friday night against Arizona, with Steven Matz pushed back a day to Saturday.
In his return from the disabled list Sunday at Philadelphia, deGrom lasted only one scoreless inning because he needed 45 pitches to get through the first as he walked three batters and the Phillies hit 20 foul balls. He was removed as a precaution because of the length of the inning and the 59-minute rain delay that preceded it.
The right-hander, who missed his previous turn with a hyperextended right elbow, has tossed 19 1/3 consecutive shutout innings — the longest active streak in the majors.
Matz took part in a simulated game Tuesday to stay sharp, Callaway said, and the left-hander will pitch on seven days' rest Saturday. The move allows the Mets to separate deGrom and fellow ace Noah Syndergaard in the rotation by a day, hopefully helping their bullpen as they begin a stretch of 18 games in 17 days.
Struggling left-hander Jason Vargas (0-3) also was scheduled to throw in the simulated game Tuesday. Vargas is being skipped this time through the rotation and isn't expected to start again until next Tuesday against Miami.