David Wright not blaming sore shoulder for slump

Mets pitcher Jonathan Niese heads to the dugout
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Mets pitcher Jonathan Niese heads to the dugout after giving up two runs to the Atlanta Braves in the top of the eighth inning of a game at Citi Field.(Credit: Errol Anderson)

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The admission, if it can even be categorized as such, surprised no one. Yet it was the closest thing to an acknowledgment of an issue that has dogged David Wright.

For the first time, the Mets third baseman said that the left shoulder he injured earlier this summer is not yet fully healthy, and it likely won't be until he can rest it in the offseason. But the seven-time All-Star once more refused to blame the injury for the worst offensive season of his career, as hitting coach Lamar Johnson did in an interview earlier this week.

"Everybody has an opinion,'' Wright said Tuesday before the Mets' 3-2 win over the Braves at Citi Field. "Lamar sees me on a daily basis. Is the shoulder 100 percent? No. But that takes rest, and that's what the offseason's for. But is that the reason that I'm struggling the way I'm struggling? No. So, I think it's not a reasonable assessment as to why I'm playing poorly.''

An unrelated neck injury kept Wright out of the lineup as a precaution Tuesday night, when Juan Lagares hit a two-run homer, Dillon Gee (5-6) held the Braves to two runs in 61/3 innings, and Jenrry Mejia nailed down his 19th save.

But Wright's insistence on playing through his banged-up shoulder -- and the team's willingness to go along with him -- loomed larger than the game.

In an interview with MetsBlog.com, Johnson expressed his belief that Wright's shoulder issue not only has robbed the slugger of his power but also has impeded his ability to work on his swing.

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"It's really tough because it's hurting, his left shoulder,'' Johnson said. "And that's where your swing starts, with your left side, your left hand getting you to the ball. It's been tough because he's been trying to play through that, and it's just been a real tough haul because it's hard to get a consistent swing when you're in pain a little bit.''

Wright, 31, is hitting just .266 with only eight homers, none since July 11. He's on pace to set career lows in virtually every critical offensive category. and in danger of being moved out of his No. 3 spot in the lineup.

But regardless of Wright's uncharacteristically poor performance and Johnson's recent assertion, the Mets have signaled no intention of changing course.

"To get to 100 percent, he's going to need a long period of time off,'' manager Terry Collins said. "He's probably not going to get it here right now. When he's ready to play, when the neck's better and he's ready to get in there, as he's told me every day, 'This is not keeping me from playing, this is not the reason why I'm not hitting.' ''

General manager Sandy Alderson left open the possibility of shutting down Wright, who has six years and $107 million remaining on his deal after this season. But Alderson offered no indication that Wright's injuries have prompted any such discussion yet.

"Our decision is predicated essentially on feedback from the patient,'' Alderson said. "David has said it's not a factor. Now, should we discount that somewhat? Probably. But at this point, he's said that it's not a factor, so we've accepted that and agreed.''

Doctors have cleared Wright to play through the shoulder issue, which the team has called a left rotator-cuff bruise. With no sign of structural damage, Alderson has been "adamant'' about letting him play through his discomfort.

"Could we legitimately put him on the disabled list? Probably,'' Alderson said. "But usually when you put someone on the disabled list, they have to agree with the placement. Not that it's an absolute requirement, or any sort of basic requirement, but that's sort of what happens. And at this point, we're not there yet.''

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