David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
David Wright admits to ducking into the Tradition Field clubhouse between his rehab at-bats for Class A St. Lucie to check on the Mets, who have spent the past four months pretending they don't need him. We don't mean to sound harsh. Only realistic.
That's the way it has to be when a seven-time All-Star, even a captain, is separated from his major-league team. To constantly pine over Wright's absence, like a forlorn ex, is not productive behavior -- particularly for a club trying to win a division title.
Maybe Wright does make it back by September, in time to be an impact player again for the Mets. But there's also the chance that he doesn't, and Terry Collins finds himself walking that tightrope lately as he's asked repeatedly about Wright's progress.
"If there's no news, it's good news," Collins said before Tuesday night's 4-0 win over the Rockies. "If something is wrong with David Wright, I will immediately get a phone call. I got enough going on with the 25 guys I got in [the clubhouse]. When he's ready to go, I'll let you know."
With the craziness swirling around the Mets during the past two weeks, Wright mostly has been a back-burner topic. From the deadline deals that reshaped the roster to the seven-game winning streak that put them back atop the NL East, the Mets weren't sweating their missing captain.
But as Wright inches closer to Flushing, and the horrendous Rockies eventually leave Citi Field, everyone is going to get a bit more anxious about Wright's status. He went 1-for-3 Tuesday night for St. Lucie, playing six innings at third base, and now has a pair of singles in two games before taking a scheduled breather Wednesday.
That's a minuscule sample size, and the most important thing about Wright's performance is that he appears to be unaffected by the spinal stenosis that has sidelined him since April 15. Wright already has said he'll return when he feels "dangerous" again, but that's not a very precise timetable.
"Right now, I have no idea how long it's going to take," Collins said. "So I'm going to try not to get caught up in what's going on in St. Lucie and more caught up with what's going on right now at Citi Field."
As Wright continued his rehab, Collins used a righty-heavy lineup against Rockies lefthander Chris Rusin, who entered with a 4.66 ERA. Lucas Duda was kept on the bench after complaining of a sore back and Collins chose to give Curtis Granderson a planned night to rest anyway, probably figuring that he had plenty of firepower to demolish Rusin.
But the Mets didn't score until they strung together three singles in the sixth inning, the last by Ruben Tejada to push in the winning run. Juan Uribe, who started in the cleanup spot, went 0-for-4 and is hitting .163 (7-for-43) since the Mets acquired him July 24. Yoenis Cespedes also was 0-for-4 and is batting .067 (1-for-15) at Citi Field after the deadline swap with the Tigers.
Travis d'Arnaud seems to be getting his rhythm back after Monday's homer and Juan Lagares even showed some life at the plate with three hits -- two doubles and two RBIs -- from the leadoff spot.
But a healthy Wright sure would up the fear factor for opposing pitchers.
The Mets climbed back into first place without Wright, and seem capable of staying there in his absence. But we can't help thinking about what the Mets would be like with Wright in the middle of the order again, even if they pretend not to.