Just as he did last year, when he spent practically the whole summer rehabbing his back in Los Angeles, David Wright is doing everything he can to get back on the baseball field.
This time, in addition to spinal stenosis, the Mets captain is dealing with what manager Terry Collins Tuesday night called “this neck thing.”
In 2015, Wright was able to return for a glorious run to the World Series. Now, the news that he has a herniated disc in his neck has Collins openly contemplating the worst-case scenario.
“This guy has been a special player in baseball,” Collins said before the Mets suffered an eighth-inning bullpen meltdown and lost to the White Sox, 6-4, at Citi Field. “Certainly being the captain and the face of this organization, a manager’s worst nightmare is to see a star start to fade.”
Collins, who can drive his bosses crazy by being honest to a fault, let a little of what the Mets fear show through the corporate cracks. That Wright may not be able to get back onto the field this time. That the body has had enough.
Collins, though, quickly caught himself.
“I think David’s got a lot of baseball left in him because of the way he prepares and the way he gets himself ready,” Collins said. “But it’s hard to watch what he’s going through. As good as he was. I’ll tell you: There’s a lot of guys in this room that would not do what he does every day just to get ready to go play a baseball game. He’s still special. He’s still a great player. We just hope this neck thing goes away in a few days and he’s back in our lineup.”
Wright had an anti-inflammatory injection in his neck on Tuesday. It probably was as much fun as it sounds. The Mets will wait 48 hours to see if he can avoid the disabled list.
There seems to be a bigger issue at stake than just whether No. 5, who is batting .226 with seven home runs and 14 RBIs, can return to the lineup on Friday in Miami.
If Wright is out for a significant chunk of the season again, do the Mets have to start to plan for life without him? It’s hard to imagine when you consider Wright, 33, is signed through 2020. It’s easier when you imagine how unlikely it seems he’ll be able to finish out that contract.
Remember, general manager Sandy Alderson moved quickly when Lucas Duda went down for an unknown period with a stress fracture in his lower back and acquired James Loney, who went 0-for-4 in his Mets debut Tuesday night.
Loney made an error and could have been charged with another, but he’s a bonafide first baseman. One of the mistakes the Mets made early last year was waiting until July to address obvious holes in depth they had coming out of spring training.
Forgot about that? Three words: John Mayberry Jr.
Getting Loney allows the Mets to give Wilmer Flores the bulk of the work at third if Wright has to be disabled. Flores had been lost as a bench player and then got hurt. But as spring turns to summer, Alderson may have to search for someone more established if Flores falters.
The same could be said for catcher if Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t successfully complete the rotator cuff rehab he is only now beginning. As a starter, Kevin Plawecki has proven he’s a nice backup.
The question with Wright is how long can the Mets keep the light on for the captain if Collins’ worst fears come true. Or will they begin the excruciatingly difficult process of moving on from the face of the franchise far earlier than they expected to. Or want to.