PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — David Wright offered no hint of abandoning his grueling quest to get back on the field, even on the heels of his latest setback from major neck surgery, a severely weakened right shoulder that will keep the Mets’ captain from throwing indefinitely.
That means any thought of playing in a major-league game is on hold, with Wright himself calling it “worthless” to affix any timelines to his recovery.
“It doesn’t do anybody any good to try and go out there and play a position that requires throwing when you can’t throw,” Wright said Thursday in his first public comments since the Mets announced his setback on Tuesday.
Wright acknowledged the uncertainty ahead but demonstrated defiance in the face of a dwindling window to reclaim his career.
“This is something that just needs to be corrected with an aggressive, probably time-consuming shoulder rehab,” he said. “That’s kind of why I want to start concentrating on that before I do a lot of baseball stuff. I want to get this under my belt so I feel comfortable with it.”
Pain has been a constant companion during his early throwing sessions, the 34-year-old third baseman revealed. Even light work — shielded from all but team trainers — proved too much for his weakened shoulder to handle.
Nevertheless, Wright adopted a stance he has maintained for much of his career. Despite soreness, he stayed on his every-other-day throwing program. At first, he believed that the pain stemmed from simply knocking off rust. Over time, it became clear that it was something more.
“It’s something where I hadn’t thrown for so long that at first you’re not sure it’s normal,” Wright said. “So we threw through it for a few times and then it just didn’t get any better. It was time to go get it checked out and make sure that we’re on the right program.”
Wright sought a second opinion on his shoulder diagnosis, which confirmed that his latest physical issue essentially is fallout from neck surgery last June. He received affirmation that a course of rehab still is possible, though a significant hurdle must be cleared.
Wright must get his right shoulder functioning properly. That means strengthening exercises and more time — at a point in his career when such a luxury already is in short supply.
“My shoulder stopped working properly and kind of shut down,” Wright said. “The whole point of your shoulder is to protect your labrum and your rotator cuff. So when my shoulder is not working properly, it continues to hit, hit, hit the rotator cuff, and that’s what’s causing the pain. So you’ve got to get your shoulder functioning correctly so you start protecting that and you don’t have that sharp pain.”
Meanwhile, long prepared for the uncertainty surrounding Wright, the Mets have installed Jose Reyes as the starting third baseman.
According to manager Terry Collins, Wright will shift his focus toward rehabbing his shoulder. He had been appearing as a designated hitter during Grapefruit League games, but now he will be held out of game action.
Despite his ongoing battle to stay healthy, Wright reaffirmed his conviction about staying on course rather than calling it a career.
“If this is the most adversity I’m going to have to face in my life, then it’s not that bad in the grand scheme of things,” said Wright, a seven-time All-Star who has played a total of only 75 games the last two years. “I would say in the first however many years of my career, I stayed fairly healthy. And I think you get to a certain point where injuries are kind of part of the game especially now. I guess I’m paying for that injury-free first part of my career.”
Wright said multiple medical teams have reviewed his throwing program, leaving him with the understanding that following it will get him back on the field eventually.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting problems to come with it, but ultimately, I guess you’d be a little naive to think everything was going to be smooth sailing after major neck surgery,” Wright said. “It’s just as far as I’m concerned a little bump in the road, and I’ll give everything I have to the rehab and hopefully be out there helping my teammates as soon as possible.”