DENVER - Here's what the Mets know about David Wright: he'll be in Monday night's lineup, for the first time since April 15, and starting at third base against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess as to what sort of impact Wright will have in his return as he deals with the ongoing problem of spinal stenosis.
"He's a star player," Terry Collins said before Sunday's game. "He's going to play. And then we'll evaluate as we go. He's ready to play. He says he feels great. Says he's moving great. Is there going to be a little transition stage? I think there will be."
Wright spent nearly four months rehabbing under the supervision of Los Angeles-based back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, then played only eight games for Class A St. Lucie, where he batted .321 (9-for-28) -- without an extra-base hit. The Mets considered having him play a few games at Triple-A Las Vegas, just to upgrade the level of competition, but Wright preferred to remain in Florida.
That sets up quite a leap for Wright, from Class A directly to the majors, which is why Collins was hesitant to offer much in the way of predictions. The adjustment is going to be significant, both at the plate and defensively, even for a 12-year veteran and seven-time All-Star like Wright.
"It's the Florida State League," Collins said. "Nolan Arenado has not had any at-bats in the Florida State League. They hit the ball a little harder here. He's moving fine, but it's the Florida State League. So I have no idea what's going to happen until he sets foot on the field."
Wright, 32, was batting .333 (11-for-33) with a home run and four RBIs in eight games before he was placed on the disabled list with a hamstring strain. During his absence, the Mets have positioned themselves for their first playoff trip since 2006 and welcome him back with a five-game lead over the Nationals in the National League East. They also can't afford to be all that patient waiting for Wright to get up to speed.
"I can honestly tell you I'm excited to have him back because his presence on our team is big," Collins said. "You guys have seen the difference in the clubhouse when he's there. There's a different atmosphere.
"But the surroundings now are a little different than it was in the middle of April. Each and every game is huge. It means a lot. And we've got to play every game and play it well."
If history is any indication, Wright could find his All-Star form rather quickly. In 2011, Wright missed nine weeks because of a stress fracture in his back -- perhaps a precursor to the spinal stenosis -- but immediately went on a 10-game hitting streak upon his return, batting .455 (20-for-44) with three doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI.
Of course, Wright was four years younger then. But Collins, who already has said Wright won't be an "everyday player," refuses to set any further limitations for him until he sees Wright on the field.
"He'll have something to say about that," Collins said. "To play here, it takes more. It just takes more energy. Is he going to play three games in a row? Maybe. Probably not four. He'll decide that."