Mets captain David Wright is with the ballclub in San...

Mets captain David Wright is with the ballclub in San Francisco and discussed the hurdles he has yet to clear in his long road back on Friday. Credit: AP/D. Ross Cameron

SAN FRANCISCO — When David Wright discusses his potential major-league return — three surgeries and 2 1⁄2 seasons removed from his most recent game — he does so in terms of when, not if.

“I truly believe it’s going to happen,” Wright said Friday, sitting in the visitors’ dugout at AT&T Park.

Wright’s return, however, is not imminent. Nor is it guaranteed. He rejoined the Mets in San Francisco after spending much of the month on a minor-league rehab assignment, and on Friday afternoon, he met with manager Mickey Callaway and special assistants to the general manager Omar Minaya and J.P. Ricciardi about what he needs to do to get back. Wright called it “a very good talk.”

As confident — “cautiously optimistic’’ would be a better phrase, Wright said — as the captain is that he’ll be ready to come back, he still has to prove himself able in the eyes of the bosses.

“The challenge has been accepted,” Wright said. “I’m going to do everything I can to get that clearance. I’m going to do everything I can to put that big-league uniform on, because I’ve come way too far with the work to give it a ‘poor me.’

“They set forward some things that I need to work on, that they need to see out of me through some workouts and things. I need to show them that I can do those things and maybe a little bit more.”

The front office’s qualms largely relate to Wright’s defense, he said. He was not challenged much at third base during his 10 games with high- Class A St. Lucie and two games with Triple-A Las Vegas, particularly on down-the-line and off-balance plays.

Callaway said the focus with Wright remains largely medical. He has had a surgery each on his neck, right shoulder and back, and he still has to manage his chronic spinal stenosis condition. Wright has not been cleared medically to play in major-league games.

‘Everybody needs to feel comfortable that he’s ready to go medically to go out there and give us a chance to help us win,” Callaway said.

Among Wright’s greatest on-field problems is his arm strength. As he took ground balls before batting practice Friday, the wind coming in off the bay messed with his already weak throws. “The wind is not my friend when I’m throwing against it,” Wright said. “If I can throw with the wind, it’s good.”

He is still trying to improve in that area but acknowledged, “My arm strength is what it is.”

Overusing his arm is a concern.

“When my arm gets sore or overtaxed, [the pain] starts creeping to my neck, and that really scares me because that surgery [cervical discectomy and fusion] was no fun,” he said.

“Once you have the surgery that I had, the levels above it and below it start getting a little more susceptible to the same thing. So I need to be really careful with that.”

Then there are two practical areas of concern: The money side and the lack-of-games side.

If Wright returns, the Mets will have to pay his salary. For now, an insurance policy covers three-quarters of it. Wright said the Mets have not mentioned that issue to him, nor he to them.

Without additional minor-league games for Wright to play in, Callaway said the Mets will have to “get creative.” Wright said that includes standing in on bullpen sessions, facing little-used relievers in live BP sessions and taking grounders.

It’s difficult to simulate game speed, but the hassle and work would all be worth it for a return to Queens.

“Throughout this process, there’s some days where you feel like it’s such a long road. What motivates you? What pushes you to do this stuff when you don’t feel like doing it?” Wright said. “Those are the thoughts that creep in your head: ‘What’s it going to be like to go out there, Citi Field, take third base, get a chance to play in front of my family, the fans?’ That’s certainly a big-time motivator when you’re down these long rehab roads.”


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