There was a David Wright sighting at Citi Field Thursday afternoon — on the actual field.
He took part in his first baseball activity since last year, playing catch while clinging to hope that he can be out there playing games again this season.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t waste my time playing a meaningless game of catch if I wasn’t trying to give it a go,” Wright said before the Mets’ game against the Cubs. “It was a small step, but a step in the right direction. I certainly have a long way to go.”
The 35-year-old third baseman hasn’t appeared in a major-league game in more than two years, since May 27, 2016. His body repeatedly has betrayed him, forcing him to try to overcome spinal stenosis as well as neck, back and shoulder operations.
“We’ll see how my back and shoulder respond,” Wright said. “This was Day 1 of baseball stuff, and hopefully there’s more to come.
“I had a good time out there and I’m happy about today. But I’ve had days where I got to the point where I felt I could push it and my body wouldn’t allow it.”
Tougher tests will be coming.
“We do expect within the next several weeks — that can be one, that can be three; it’s really imprecise at this point — that he will transition into [more] baseball activity,” general manager Sandy Alderson said.
“His rehab has been making progress. We’ll see with the upgrade in intensity and overall activity if his physical condition stays the same, improves or deteriorates. It’s just uncertain at this point.”
The seven-time All-Star played in only 38 major-league games in 2015, the year he was hit with the spinal stenosis diagnosis.
“The stenosis is there and it’s always going to be there,” Wright said.
The cervical discectomy and fusion surgery for his neck came in June 2016, limiting him to 37 games that season.
Last year, he was limited to three rehab games with Class A St. Lucie. He had lower back surgery in October, a month after right rotator cuff surgery.
”I’ve done all that I can since both surgeries and now it’s a matter of how my body responds,” Wright said. “The neck surgery affected my shoulder and it’s taken a long time to just rehab back to where they were pre-surgery.”
It’s one thing to rehab. It’s another to swing, run, dive and make hard throws to first.
“I certainly have to be patient,” Wright said, “but we’ll have to ramp it up. It was good getting out there. It was the first time putting on my cleats in a while and putting on a uniform.”
The captain knows he needs to be playing in that uniform to become an impactful leader again.
“You want to earn the respect by going out there and leading by example,” Wright said. “I do what I can, but real leaders go out there and lead by example.”