David Wright and Terry Collins have remained on message, constantly disputing the notion that the Mets' captain still is bothered by a balky left shoulder, one that required a cortisone injection during the All-Star break.
But Mets hitting coach Lamar Johnson apparently went off script, saying that Wright’s power outage by the slugger’s insistence on playing through pain in his left shoulder.
“Basically, we’re just trying to work on a consistent swing,” Johnson told MetsBlog.com’s Robert Brender in an interview published on Monday. “Like you say, when your shoulder’s hurt, it’s really tough because it’s hurting, his left shoulder. And that’s where your swing starts, with your left side, you’re left hand getting you to the ball.”
Said Johnson: “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.”
Johnson’s words veered sharply from assurances by both Collins -- and Wright himself -- that the shoulder injury is no longer an issue and isn't directly to blame for the captain's poor results. Wright missed more than a week near the end of the first half with what the team called a bruised left rotator cuff.
“I don’t think it’s the shoulder,” Collins said before the game on Sunday. “First of all, we’ve got to stop that. He doesn’t even get treatment on it anymore, the ice is off. Look, it’s not about that.”
Though the manager acknowledged that Wright’s struggles may stem from undoing adjustments he made while playing through the shoulder injury, Collins stopped short of blaming shoulder pain itself.
“Due to maybe the issue, he’s made a couple changes in his swing we’ve got to fix,” Collins said. “And I know one thing, he’s been out trying to fix it.”
When asked directly about those swing changes after a particularly ugly 0-for-5 performance on Friday, Wright sidestepped the question, insisting that his mere presence in the lineup indicates that he’s healthy enough to play.
It’s a tone he’s struck often since his shoulder injury first came to light.
“As I’ve said a million times, if I’m in the lineup, I expect to produce, and I’m not producing,” said Wright, who regularly had been seen icing his shoulder following games. “That’s just the bottom line.”
Wright, 31, has suffered through a miserable season by his own standards.
He’s hitting .266 with a .324 on-base percentage and a .368 slugging percentage -- all three are well below his lifetime norms. He has just eight homers and 56 RBIs.
All of it adds up to an OPS+ of 98. If that doesn’t rise by season’s end, Wright for the first time will finish a year as a below-average major league hitter.
Wright’s slide has been so stark that Collins has considered removing the slugger from his No. 3 slot in the batting order.
Yet, before Sunday’s game, Collins dismissed the possibility that Wright has been concealing the true extent of his shoulder injury. He insisted that Wright has been forthcoming about his physical state, even though the manager has chosen to keep those updates private.
“He’s been completely honest,” Collins said on Sunday morning, before a small group of reporters. “I just haven’t told you guys about it... because you guys have got to put it out there and I don’t want the other team knowing [stuff]. I know exactly what’s going on and he’s told me his shoulder’s fine.”
Said Collins: “I know all about what David’s injuries are.”
Hours later, Collins pulled Wright in the third inning of a game against the Dodgers with a muscle spasms stemming from a lingering neck injury, one that had previously been undisclosed publicly.