Mets weighing risks, rewards for getting David Wright into some game action
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The Mets will not qualify for the postseason. They will not finish with a winning record. They will not do anything in these waning days to change the tenor of yet another lost season.
Yet star third baseman David Wright remains steadfast in his goal of returning from his hamstring injury before season's end, insisting that it simply isn't right not to compete if he's healthy enough to play.
"I need to play when I'm capable of playing," said Wright, who could return to action as soon as next week. "I've had that mind-set my whole career, and that doesn't change whether you're in first place or last place. If I'm healthy enough to play, I want to play."
After this season, the Mets have $127 million committed to the 30-year-old Wright over the next seven seasons. In their long-range plan to transform themselves into winners, Wright remains at the center, occupying a unique position as a lifelong member of the franchise.
In so many ways, Wright remains the Mets' most indispensable player. And they have no issue with the third baseman's desire to play in the remaining games, no matter how meaningless they may be in the long term.
For Wright, the idea of a shutdown goes against his sensibilities.
"People spend a lot of money on these tickets and I want to go out there and put on a good show for them," said Wright, who before his injury was hitting .309 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs, an MVP-caliber season.
Terry Collins even offered a full-throated defense of the plan. The manager questioned the wisdom of overprotecting players from the ever-present risk of injury.
"If something happens, it's part of the game," Collins said. "Should we shut down Zack Wheeler right now? Should we possibly run him out there one more time? I don't know, how about the catcher , who has been hit in the head seven times in the last four games he's caught? Should we get him out of there in case he gets hit?"
Yet even Collins acknowledged that Wright's injury carries different circumstances, stemming mostly from the timing. The Mets believe that the right hamstring strain that has sidelined Wright since Aug. 2 has healed. The major issue facing the third baseman, Collins said, is logistical, not physical.
Ideally, Wright would face live pitching at a minor-league rehab assignment. While there, he also could test his body at game speed. But the minor-league season has concluded and the team's instructional league doesn't begin for more than a week, leaving Wright with few options.
Before Saturday's doubleheader against the Marlins, Wright arrived at 9:30 a.m. and participated in various baseball activities. He ran the bases, fielded grounders at third base and faced pitches from bullpen coach Ricky Bones. Later on, he stood in the batter's box during Wheeler's bullpen session so he could track pitches.
Still, none of it is a substitute for game action, a luxury the Mets don't have.
"They never can simulate the game, I don't care how hard they try," Collins said. "They cannot simulate the adrenaline during a game that occurs."
Even Wright said he has some concern about how his body will respond in game conditions.
"You can go out there all day and be controlled and run the bases," he said. "But it's a lot more difficult to do that in a real game where you're trying to score or beat out an infield single or something like that."
Nevertheless, Wright hopes to increase his activity during the next few days ahead of a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, when team decision-makers will huddle to determine if the Mets' captain is ready to return. He could be activated as soon as Tuesday for the start of a three-game set against the Giants.
It would be the first live pitching Wright has faced in six weeks.
"Is that fair?" Collins said. "I just think right now, for David's mind-set, for the mind-set of our fans, that's an opportunity for us to get him out on the field. We can certainly monitor for what's going on."