Céspedes homers as DH in return, Mets edge Braves 1-0

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New York Mets' Yoenis Cespedes, right, celebrates his solo home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field, Friday, July 24, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK – Sure didn't take much time for Yoenis Céspedes to swing right into a DH role in his long-awaited return.

Céspedes came back with a bang, immediately capitalizing on the new designated hitter rule in the National League by launching a home run that sent Jacob deGrom and the New York Mets past the Atlanta Braves 1-0 in their season opener Friday.

After five dominant innings from deGrom, who was popping the catcher’s mitt with 99 mph fastballs at the start, Céspedes connected in the seventh off reliever Chris Martin (0-1) for his first long ball since his previous major league game on July 20, 2018.

“I'm very excited. It was very exciting just to be able to play again,” Céspedes said though a translator. “I don't have words for a situation like that.”

“It proved to me that I can still be the same player that I used to be,” he added.

The 34-year-old slugger missed most of the past two seasons with a string of leg injuries, requiring surgery on both heels and then a broken ankle after a bad fall at his Florida ranch in a reported run-in with a wild boar.

“I don’t care if he took a five-year hiatus, when he gets in the batter’s box, you’re worried,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s such a presence.”

Rules changes for this shortened season delayed by the coronavirus provided a DH in NL games for the first time — giving the Mets a perfect slot for Céspedes even if left field presents a problem.