PORT ST. LUCIE — David Wright is not ready to hang up the spikes and retire after receiving the latest medical news that he will have to shut down all baseball activity for another two months.
Wright, the Mets captain who is recovering from lower back and rotator cuff surgery last year, and who has not played in a regular season game since late May 2016, spoke to reporters from Los Angeles via conference call Wednesday, 24 hours after the team announced his latest setback.
“As far as the time period goes, it certainly wasn’t positive news. I guess the news could have been worse,” Wright said. “The way that I’m looking at it, it’s not like I have to be idle for eight weeks. It’s eight weeks of focusing on the actual rehab. Hopefully I can start my spring training two months from now. That would be the goal.”
Wright, who still has three years left on his contract and is still owed $47 million, went to L.A. to meet with and be examined by Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed the back surgery on Wright last October 5. Wright, 35, said that the news Watkins delivered wasn’t a total surprise, but it was nonetheless “frustrating” as he continues to try and make a comeback.
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“(Watkins) just said, ‘Look, your body is just taking longer to respond. I wouldn’t call it a setback. There’s nothing more wrong with you. With this type of surgery, some people respond quicker than others. You’re just taking a little more time than what we originally expected,’” said Wright, recalling the recent conversation with Watkins. “It was good to hear that, but at the same time obviously frustrating because at this point I was hoping to be doing a little bit more than I’m actually doing.”
Wright said his pain level varies from day to day. “Some days I’m fairly useless,” he said. But Wright said he has peered into the future and when he does finish his career, he wants to be able to lead as pain-free a life as possible.
“If you don’t get it right this time, it could affect you down the road,” Wright said. “I want to get back and certainly give it a shot playing baseball, but down the road, you don’t want to have back problems the rest of your life.”
Wright’s health woes started in 2015, when he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. He missed 115 games that season, but played in the Mets’ playoff run. In 2016, Wright played in 37 games before having neck surgery to address a herniated disc. He missed all of the 2017 season recovering from the neck surgery, and then had the two separate procedures done on his lower back and rotator cuff.
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For now, Wright said the immediate plan is to do rehab work with Dr. Watkins for the next two weeks and then rejoin his teammates in New York for Opening Day, March 29 at Citi Field.
“The rehab is broken up into phases. The first couple phases were pretty doable. Once it got to start preparing to try to do some baseball stuff, doing more of that twisting and turning, my back in particular, it just wasn’t ready for it. My back certainly let me know that,” Wright said. “Mentally, it is what it is. I wish there was something to speed (the recovery) up. That’s not the case. It’s been a long and tough road for me. When the doctor says don’t do anything for two months, you listen to him and I guess you take his advice.”
Once he does rejoin the Mets, however, Wright said that it would be a different feeling for him since he’s not out on the field, grinding it out with his teammates on a daily basis. Now he has been reduced to injured spectator.
“When you’re around the team, obviously I love those guys. Some of the best friendships I have in life are guys that are in that clubhouse,” Wright said. “But when you’re in there, you feel somewhat useless because you’re used to when you go out there and you grind out with those guys. I feel like that’s how you gain the respect of the clubhouse. When you’re injured and you’re kind of on the outside looking in, you don’t have that same connection. I really enjoy being around those guys. But you walk in there, and some days you just feel like you’re an outsider.”
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