SAN DIEGO - David Wright spoke with an uncomfortable urgency Tuesday, his words tumbling out of his mouth at a staccato pace. This was unusual.
So, too, were the beads of sweat that formed beneath the brim of his cap. Conditioned for years to be a stabilizing voice, the Mets captain moved his hands behind his back to hide the fidgeting.
"It's obviously aggravating for me, frustrating for me," Wright said in his first public comments since being diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal canal that could alter the remainder of his career.
Uncertainty still looms over the seven-time All-Star.
Wright, 32, insisted that he will return to the field "sooner rather than later" this season. But he could not offer a timeline, noting that unlike a broken bone, his spinal condition brings no promise of a linear progression.
"It literally is a week-to-week process," said Wright, who is in physical therapy seven days a week.
He must visit with specialists every Monday, his progress measured by whether his back can withstand a battery of physical tests. Thus far, his back has yet to make enough progress to begin entertaining a comeback.
"I'm not there right now," Wright said. "They run me through the tests and I flat-out can't do it."
General manager Sandy Alderson said the organization is "comfortable" in banking on a return from Wright sometime this season. "We're not looking for his replacement," he said.
Alderson nevertheless outlined a grim reality that could soon face the Mets, even if Wright returns as expected.
Said Alderson: "I'm not sure we can have any assurance at this point that when he comes back it will be incident-free for the rest of the season."
Alderson also made clear what already has been apparent: Wright's return remains a far-off goal.
"We probably have a little more clarity today than we had say 10 days ago," Alderson said. "We're not on the edge of our seat waiting for David to come back at this point."
Wright's cloudy prognosis leaves the Mets in a difficult situation, weighing whether to aggressively pursue a trade or to reshuffle the pieces they have.
Both options present their own complications and hinge on when Wright returns.
"There's never been a question in my mind that not only am I going to come back but I want to come back sooner rather than later," he said. "It's just a matter of being symptom-free."
Wright laid out the process of learning about spinal stenosis, all after initially landing on the DL on April 15 with a hamstring strain.
Surgery, he said, remains only a final option. Physical therapy has been geared toward avoiding an operation at all costs.
His symptoms include "achiness" and "discomfort" and "tightness" in his lower back while in an upright position. Doctors, Wright said, called them "classic symptoms of the condition that I have."
He has undergone a series of epidurals to help cope with the fallout from nerve damage caused by the stenosis. But doctors also remind him that pushing the process could lead to complications -- and increase the risk of surgery.
Even when he returns, Wright acknowledged that his back condition almost certainly will force him to alter his preparation. He discussed the initial fears he had when he first learned the diagnosis in early May, and how doctors have reassured him that he can return.
"I do think there's a good plan in place and I'm excited about coming back, I'm pumped to come back," he said. "I'm really excited to see these guys because you miss coming in here every day and putting this uniform on."