CLEARWATER, Fla. — David Wright made his long-awaited return to baseball Sunday, manning third base in a competitive minor-league game.
The Mets’ captain went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first rehab game with high Class A St. Lucie. He played five innings in the field, catching a pop fly in the fourth. He did not have any ground balls hit to him.
The results, however, were not the point.
“I think it was just a lot of different kind of butterflies, that nervous energy,” Wright said. “It’s been a while and it felt like I got here so early that I was just counting down the minutes wanting to get it going. So it was good to get out there.”
Wright played three minor-league games last August and hasn’t played in a major-league game in more than two seasons. The nerves showed in his first two at-bats.
Batting third, he struck out the first two times against Phillies prospect Mauricio Llovera. In the first inning, he struck out looking. In the third, he struck out swinging on a 1-and-2 changeup. In the sixth, he lined out hard to left.
“Everybody wants to go get hits and everybody wants to make all the plays in the field,” Wright said. “But I think for me, I have to really — not necessarily temper expectations but be realistic about the process and to make sure I’m doing the work behind the scenes and start seeing the results as we get further along in this rehab.”
Wright said he originally was hesitant to make the three-hour bus ride from Port St. Lucie to Clearwater to play five innings but was happy to have the opportunity to face a hard-throwing young pitcher in a live game.
“I got to see a young arm like that that’s live and throwing 96-97. You can’t mimic that by practicing,” he said. “I felt like each at-bat got a little better. That last at-bat was my best, so I’m glad I got it because I’ve got something to build on.”
Wright didn’t have too many opportunities to move around on defense and didn’t have a chance to test his arm throwing to first base. He went out into the outfield to chase a pop fly but was called off by the leftfielder. In the fourth, he finally recorded an out on a pop-up near the mound.
“I forgot my sunglasses so I was out there kind of really nervous when the ball started going in the air,” Wright said. “But it was good to track it a little bit and start moving around.”
The next step for Wright is to make a plan for the next week. St. Lucie plays 10 of its next 14 games at home. His plan will include periodic days off.
He said the goal is to rejoin the Mets this season and play for them for the first time since May 27, 2016.
“I wouldn’t be out here in 95-degree sunny Florida dripping sweat if I didn’t think I could make it back,” he said. “Not only just make it back; I’ve got to see results down here. In order to go up there and try to help those guys, I’m going to have to show I can be productive and be counted on to get some hits and make the plays.”