PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — There was a time when such a thing would have been unthinkable. But this season, there will be days when Mets captain David Wright sits out a game, even though his back is feeling perfectly fine.
That was one of the talking points on Wednesday when Wright and manager Terry Collins sat down for a meeting to discuss how to manage the third baseman’s back condition, spinal stenosis.
“I think Terry is just trying to be proactive,” Wright said. “He’s trying to look out for me, and look out for kind of the long term.”
Planning can only go so far, as Wright himself noted several times, because the very nature of the condition brings about uncertainty. He has described a cycle of good days and bad, with no warning about which way the pendulum will swing on a daily basis.
Said Wright: “It’s unrealistic to try to predict what’s going to happen because as I’ve experienced so far you never know how you’re going to feel until you kind of wake up and get moving.”
But Wright, 33, dealt with the condition enough last season to know that ignoring his body is the quickest way to an extended stint in the disabled list. Because of the condition, Wright is susceptible to inflammation that can easily linger without adequate rest.
“There is going to be days this summer that he’s going to get off even though he feels good,” said Collins, who called the meeting productive.
The Mets and Wright must find a delicate balance. While Wright wants to get in enough work to feel prepared to play in spring training games, he also wants to cut down on his practice reps.
For instance, it’s common for veteran players who stay back during spring training road trips to take grounders and work on their own in the cage. But Collins said Wright may have to re-think how often he does such work.
Another complication may be timing. Doctors recommended that Wright take a month off right after last season. Because of that break, he believes he has fallen behind in his regular preparation schedule.
“The most important thing is I can’t rush out of the gates,” Wright said. “I almost have to ease myself into it because I feel baseball-wise I’m a little behind schedule because of playing into the World Series, because of the doctor’s recommendation to take about a month off after the season. It puts me behind where I’d like to be right now.”
Though general manager Sandy Alderson recently said 130 regular-season games would be a target, both Wright and Collins have taken care not to establish a set number of how many games he will play in spring training or during the regular season.
Instead, their goals have been less detailed, with Wright even insisting that calling it a “plan” would be misleading.
“It was all about the scheduling, all about what needed to take place before he gets in games,” Collins said. “And David was obviously on board with it.”
Before the Mets can even worry about the regular season, Collins said the focus must be on getting Wright prepared to handle the Grapefruit League.
“Once we know he’s ready to play, we’ll have a better idea of how he we can handle when the rest is going to be needed,” Collins said.
Wright called the process a “learning experience.”
“I understand that it’s probably best for me and best for the team where I get some rest because of the condition of my back,” he said.