SAN DIEGO — David Wright was compelled by the same curiosity that has driven generations of children to touch hot stove tops. He had to test his boundaries.
So last month, the Mets’ captain played despite what he called a “borderline” day, when he probably should have rested. He suited up for a fourth straight contest, this one a day game after a night game against the Marlins. He had to know.
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His answer came when he awoke the next morning, and it was resounding.
Wright could not stand up straight.
When he tried, the compression on his spine created pain that proved too much to bear. He couldn’t stand for more than a few minutes. He had trouble walking. But he was lucky. The Mets were off. He didn’t have to play third base that day.
It was another lesson learned about the back condition spinal stenosis. It is not wise to push with a condition that he will spend the rest of his career managing.
“It just wasn’t good,” Wright said in explaining why he didn’t fight being given the day off in Sunday’s series finale against the Padres. “I learned right then that if I tried to do this during the whole course of the year, I’m not making it. It’s just not happening.”
For much of his career, such a concession would have been inconceivable, especially after a night in which Wright homered and reached base five times. He’s hitting .258 but has a healthy .405 on-base percentage, with four homers and eight RBIs. He has played 24 of the Mets’ 30 games, which manager Terry Collins admitted was “absolutely” more than he had expected to this point.
Part of that success has stemmed from sticking to a schedule, avoiding day games after night games and keeping an eye on playing too many games in a row.
Wright, 33, has no interest in deviating from what’s worked thus far. Neither do the Mets.
Said Collins: “We’ve decided that . . . at this particular time of the year, we’re not going to take chances.”
So, in that regard, it was an easy decision for both Collins and Wright to skip Sunday’s finale. It would have been the exact same scenario that proved troublesome in April: Wright’s fourth consecutive game after a short turnaround from the night before.
It has been standard practice for Wright to talk his way into the lineup. And through the years, Collins has been a willing participant, hearing out the team captain and often giving in to those pleas. Now Wright knows better than to try.
He has felt the burn of the stove top. It provides a lasting reminder.
“Maybe,” Wright said, “if I hadn’t felt that [pain] earlier in the season, I would have tried to talk my way into playing today.”
Wright acknowledges that things could change later in the year if the Mets find themselves locked in a tight pennant race. But for now, he must play it safe “if I want to make it to where I’m playing in September.”
Said Wright: “I have to be willing to accept that my body just doesn’t allow for certain things.”