David Wright's frustrating start to this season took a turn for the worse Monday when the Mets revealed that he has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back. General manager Sandy Alderson made the announcement shortly before 4 p.m. Monday, but the team planned to wait until Tuesday to place him on the disabled list as they waited for the results of a CT scan taken late Monday night.
In the wake of Wright's injury, Alderson made a number of roster moves after the Mets' 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Marlins.
With Wright headed for the DL, Nick Evans will be recalled from Triple-A Buffalo. Chin-lung Hu was outrighted to the Bisons and will be replaced by Ruben Tejada, who now will be the everyday second baseman as Justin Turner switches to third base. Ryota Igarashi was optioned to Buffalo and Pedro Beato was activated from the DL to take his bullpen spot.
After complaining of back pain for nearly a month, the result of an April 19 collision at third base with Houston's Carlos Lee, Wright relented to having an MRI Monday. Even then, he figured it would just be a routine visit to the doctor's office.
"I was preparing for Josh Johnson and the Marlins," Wright said. "Coming out, my head was spinning. I think shock is a good word for it."
Wright did not describe the injury as debilitating -- he missed only Thursday's start in Colorado -- and the Mets hope it won't cost him much more than two weeks on the DL.
"It would be a non-surgical course of treatment," Alderson said. "According to the information that we have now, it would be rest for the next 10 days or so, with a return to baseball activity. We're not talking about something long term."
The injury to Wright is another crippling blow to a Mets lineup that also lost first baseman Ike Davis to the DL with a sprained ankle and bone bruise. On the other hand, it might provide at least a partial explanation for Wright's early struggles. A career .302 hitter, Wright was batting .226 with 43 strikeouts through the first 39 games.
Wright did not talk about his back condition publicly until May 9, when manager Terry Collins first mentioned it as a cause for his troubles, and he refused to blame his weak offensive numbers solely on his back issues.
"By no means is this thing a cop-out or an excuse for what I've done so far," Wright said. "I don't think this injury is the reason for getting off to a slow start. But during these two weeks, I'm going to get better, I'm going to get back in the lineup and I'm going to start playing at the level I expect to play at."
Wright is not accustomed to taking time off. He's been on the disabled list only once during his eight-year career, when he missed 18 games in 2009 because of a concussion, and he's averaged 156 games since becoming the Mets' full-time third baseman in 2005. He's played 160 games in three of those seasons.
That mind-set probably is why Wright continued to play through this back condition. In the 16 games before the injury, Wright batted .254 (16-for-63) with two homers, eight RBIs, six walks and 19 strikeouts. He also had a .314 on-base percentage. Since getting hurt, Wright is hitting .215 (17-for-79) with four home runs, 10 RBIs, 19 walks and 24 strikeouts. His on-base percentage has spiked to .367.
Alderson actually said Wright's "plate discipline was better" since the injury, but Collins believes that the "nagging" nature of it "caused him to change some mechanical things." Either way, the priority now is to get Wright healthy again as soon as possible. "A concern of mine is that it would linger and/or get worse," Alderson said, "and so in that context, two weeks is something we can live with as opposed to the remainder of this season or possibly impacting something long term."
The best-case scenario still is a bad one for the Mets, who must fill two significant holes in their lineup for the foreseeable future, and replacing Wright is not something they're used to doing.
"I can't publicly say what I thought, but I was shocked by it," Collins said. "Obviously, we've had huge dents in the armor, and this is a big dent.
"He is without a question the face of this team, and his presence in that lineup is something we need. We're going to ask other guys to pick it up as of today, but I was shocked and unhappy, I can tell you."