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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Lennon: David Wright’s neck problem a worry for Mets

David Wright of the New York Mets looks

David Wright of the New York Mets looks on in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Noah Syndergaard’s vigilante act Saturday night briefly deflected the attention away from something far more significant to the Mets’ championship aspirations this season: David Wright’s deteriorating medical condition.

With everyone caught up in the mindless pursuit of exacting revenge on Chase Utley, the Mets’ own throwback player, their baseball-first captain, was dealing with an unspecified neck issue, one apparently serious enough to have team officials worrying about his long-term prognosis.

Sunday’s developments didn’t sound all that promising. Rather than provide further details about what’s bothering Wright, Terry Collins said only that he is being treated with anti-inflammatory medication and will be re-evaluated in 48 hours. Unfortunately, with Wright, we’ve come to expect worst-case scenarios.

He wasn’t available to reporters before Sunday night’s game, and the only clue Collins supplied was that the neck pain may be linked to the shoulder stiffness that affected his throwing this month. For all the daily maintenance performed on his back, the physical therapy, the extensive warm-up period, it still hasn’t protected Wright from collateral damage, and this latest neck episode is unsettling.

“It’s been hard,” Collins said. “It’s hard for him, too. We talked this morning, and he knows how important he is, especially the way he’s been swinging lately. This thing just popped up, and I told him it’s something we’ve got to get through. We’ve got to make sure it isn’t something that keeps occurring.”

The timing is particularly poor, because Wright was on a six-game hitting streak and had homered in three straight. With Lucas Duda out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his lower back, the Mets need their captain as a semi-regular force in the heart of the lineup, even if it’s only 65 percent of the time.

Otherwise, the defending NL champs start to look awfully thin. On Sunday night, against Clayton Kershaw, the Mets had Neil Walker batting cleanup, followed by Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, Kevin Plawecki and Eric Campbell. As bleak as that looks, it’s not as if Collins is swimming in options, and losing Wright has a trickle-down effect.

Remember Travis d’Arnaud? The (supposedly) run-producing catcher? It’s easy to forget that d’Arnaud is still a member of this team. He’s been on the disabled list since April 26 with a rotator cuff strain that is healing at a glacial pace. If he can’t throw, he can’t play. But it’s not as if he was hitting, either, batting .196.

If Wright ends up on the DL, the Mets will have to rely on Flores (.180) at third with a platoon of Campbell and James Loney at first. With Kershaw and White Sox lefty Jose Quintana back-to-back, they don’t plan to activate the newly acquired Loney until tomorrow, but he’s not exactly Barry Bonds. Loney is a contact hitter with a reliable glove, a solid stopgap measure, presuming Duda makes it back around the All-Star break.

Wright remains the wild card, and this neck problem has the potential to downgrade him from coin flip to on the shelf entirely. It’s a bad break for a good guy and possibly a major setback for a team having a tough run lately.

As it was, he didn’t know if the spinal stenosis would let him play until he woke up that day. Now his frustration must be reaching intolerable levels.

“I think this guy has handled it pretty good,” Collins said. “Now this thing has crept in, and it’s a little step backwards. Hopefully, we’ll get through it.”

These days, with Wright, we’re just never sure what’s waiting on the other side.

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