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Wright gets swing training with new Mets coach

New York Mets' David Wright hits an RBI

New York Mets' David Wright hits an RBI double in the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the Detroit Tigers. (March 22, 2011) Credit: AP

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - David Wright isn't about to become a free agent. He's not recovering from offseason surgery and he definitely was not involved in the Mets' second-base competition.

In other words, Wright enjoyed a relatively quiet six weeks of spring training, and most times was asked to comment on somebody else -- or the Mets' myriad changes -- heading into his eighth season with the franchise.

"I don't know if you can ever be under the radar in New York," Wright said. "I think that there's been a lot of storylines throughout spring that I'm not a part of."

And that's fine with Wright, who has received plenty of attention during some very trying years in Flushing. Now 28, Wright welcomes his occasional breaks outside the spotlight, and this spring allowed him to focus on building a relationship with the Mets' new hitting instructor, Dave Hudgens.

It wasn't just a matter of switching coaches. Howard Johnson was more than someone who watched video and worked on Wright's swing. He was a mentor as well as a close friend. But Johnson was removed from the position at the end of last season and left the organization in February rather than accept a minor-league coaching job.

The situation could have been awkward for Wright, and a potential problem for arguably the Mets' most valuable player. But the preparation of Hudgens, and his ideas for helping Wright, made the two hit it off immediately.

"You don't want to change too much," Wright said. "I think that Hudge really came in and did a great job transitioning. He knew some pretty key points in my swing from Day 1. He watched a lot of video during the winter and really got to know my swing pretty good. I was excited that our first conversation had to do with my specific swing, not his theory of hitting or anything."

Hudgens didn't get that familiar with Wright by accident. While managing in Venezuela, Hudgens watched plenty of video from his games last season, when Wright batted 22 points below his career .305 average and his on-base percentage was 29 points below his lifetime .383 mark. After a closer examination, Hudgens believes he identified a few trouble spots.

"I just thought he had too much movement, too much going on in his swing," Hudgens said, "and I've just been trying to get him to calm down a little bit, slow down and be consistent at what he does. He's a great hitter, the ball jumps off his bat, but sometimes you're trying to do too much, trying to cover too much of the plate.

"He doesn't need to swing hard to do a lot of damage. Sometimes I'll watch his videos and it's like he's revved up and wants to kill the ball -- a lot of guys do that. I thought if he could slow down a little bit, get better pitches to hit, he could be more consistent."

Wright started slowly in spring training but stayed patient with Hudgens' process. Heading into the final week, he was batting .333 (15-for-45) with four doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and a .373 on-base percentage. Grapefruit League numbers may be meaningless, but in Wright's case, they could signal the start of a productive relationship with Hudgens.

"Even when I was scuffling, I felt good," Wright said. "He's done a ton of great work with me trying to get something I feel confident with, and I think we've accomplished that so far."

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