I am leaning against the Mets dugout in Port St. Lucie, sunglasses on, arms folded, watching David Wright’s every move, hoping I don’t look like some freakish stalker. This is the closest I’ll get to “seeing” him for a while.
Wright is perched on the batting cage watching others hit. Finally, he enters the cage and I zero in, looking for something, anything out of the ordinary. He takes 10 swings and moves on.
I had no desire to speak to Wright because I already know how sensitive the organization gets as it relates to his physical condition. Wright is a professional. He will talk. But his response has become guarded and repetitive.
But New York Post reporter Kevin Kernan did speak to Wright last week. Here’s a compilation of his comments:
“I’ve got to finish the shoulder program that our team doctors have given me to complete … then we’ll try throwing again and hopefully it’s relatively pain free … I’m just doing what the doctors are telling me to get back on the field as soon as possible, that’s all. I feel the shoulder kind of working a little better than it was when I first tried to start throwing, now it’s just a matter of finishing the program and hopefully starting a throwing program … I come in every day, they hand me a sheet of paper with the game plan for that day and together we accomplish that. Tomorrow there will be another sheet of paper. I don’t get to go compete on the field right now, so I compete against the rehab.”
At 34, Wright is a shell of the player he once was, a .300 hitter with power to all fields, a Gold Glove winner and true All-Star. When the Mets left Shea Stadium after the 2008 season, it’s as if they left the real David Wright there too. From 2004-2008 (Shea Stadium), Wright batted .309 with 130 home runs and a .389 on-base percentage in 730 games. From 2009-present (Citi Field), he has batted .289 with 112 home runs and a .366 OBP in 880 games.
Of course, the ballpark is just coincidence. Wright’s production has spiraled because he’s been mauled by injuries. In 2015, Wright was shelved after 37 games after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Last June he underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc. Two weeks into this spring the team announced Wright was suffering from shoulder weakness, revealing he felt, “… sharp, shooting pain” in his shoulder.
“I could tell it was just not right,” Wright said. “There’s just no way of doing what I’m capable of doing at third base and being productive for this team with the pain. I threw and tried to push through the pain, but it got extremely difficult.’’
Wright is fading off the radar. No more games, no more designated hitter appearances; the Mets will head north in two weeks and he will remain in Florida, behind-the-scenes, focusing on his rehab program to strengthen his shoulder.
Bat in hand, Wright walks down the dugout steps and disappears into the Mets clubhouse. Goodbye David, we hope to see you again.
(Photos: Ed Delany, Metsmerized Online)