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David Wright leaves Team USA because of rib injury

David Wright talks to the media after a

David Wright talks to the media after a spring training workout at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 18, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

MIAMI -- David Wright admitted he was having trouble sleeping with the rib-cage issue that scratched him minutes before Thursday night's game against the Dominican Republic. And if Wright doesn't get a favorable checkup Friday morning in Port St. Lucie by his own team's medical staff, it will mean plenty of restless nights ahead for the Mets.

Wright, dubbed Captain America for his heroics in the World Baseball Classic, proved all too human Thursday when a visit to the U.S. team's trainer raised a red flag with the Mets, who are kept informed of the WBC injury report. After taking batting practice and showing no visible signs of discomfort, Wright received a call from Mets trainer Ray Ramirez, who was concerned about the latest update on their $138-million third baseman.

That led to another conversation between the doctors of Team USA and the Mets. The consensus was that Wright should be pulled from the lineup.

"Obviously, it's been fine to play with," said Wright, who was batting .438 (7-for-16) with a home run and a WBC-leading 10 RBIs. "But I understand the precaution that's being taken here. I had a long talk with Joe Torre about it and I told him I'd like to play, I'd like to try to play. Ultimately, it was taken out of my hands."

With Wright watching from the dugout bench, the Dominican Republic edged the U.S., 3-1, to lock up a spot in the WBC semifinals, which begin Sunday in San Francisco. Erick Aybar's one-out single off Craig Kimbrel in the ninth inning broke a 1-1 tie and sent the D.R.-partisan crowd of 34,366 into a horn-honking frenzy at Marlins Park. Jose Reyes kept the rally going with another RBI single, and now the U.S. faces an early exit in Friday night's elimination game against Puerto Rico.

R.A. Dickey rebounded from his poor opening start to allow only one run in five innings, but the sudden fallibility of Kimbrel was a stunner. Last season, in 63 appearances, Kimbrel never allowed more than one hit or one run in an inning.

Torre was asked after the game if he thinks Wright will be able to play in the semifinal round if the U.S. beats Puerto Rico. "I'm really not counting on it, because whatever he has is going to take more than a few days, I would think,'' he said. "Hopefully that's all it is. The WBC is very important, but it certainly isn't more important than making sure he's fine.''

Wright initially felt the discomfort last week as the Americans prepared for the WBC's first round at Chase Field, but he wasn't overly concerned, and he certainly didn't look affected by it. For Wright to visit a trainer, however, is significant. In 2011, he played with a stress fracture in his back for a month before it was diagnosed properly and treated.

In this situation, given the sensitive nature of WBC-related injuries, Wright might feel he needs to be extra careful. A year ago at this time, he received a cortisone injection for a small muscle tear in his rib cage, but he indicated this was not the same thing. Wright described this as soreness in the back of his left rib cage.

"I don't feel much when I play," Wright said. "It's more just lounging around. Or I've been having a hard time sleeping because you get caught in a certain position and it wakes you up in the middle of the night.

"It's more so when I'm not doing anything. When I'm sitting around, it barks and bothers me. But then once I get heated up, I feel pretty good. But I owe it to the Mets to listen to them and to be ready for Opening Day. That's extremely important to me and that's something, obviously, I don't want to jeopardize."

Wright didn't rule himself out for the remainder of the tournament, but the Mets would be crazy to risk having him land on the DL for the start of the season, no matter how much he enjoyed his time at the WBC.

"By no means does this injury have anything to do with the format of this tournament or playing in this tournament," Wright said. "It's just one of those freak things where I woke up one day and I was a little sore. We hadn't even started playing any games when I first felt this thing."

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