David Wright Looks Good in First Rehab Start


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David Wright during the first inning Monday. He had completed five consecutive days of workouts in Port St. Lucie.

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Molly Bartels for The New York Times

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Standing in the St. Lucie Mets’ clubhouse on Monday night, with a large pack of ice pressed against his lower back, David Wright kept glancing at a television. It was showing the Mets’ game against the Colorado Rockies at Citi Field, and the Mets were leading, 4-2.

For Wright — the Mets’ captain, who had just gone 1 for 3 with a walk in four plate appearances in his first game since April 14 — the TV offered a reminder of where he was and where he wanted to go.

“It just fires you up for baseball,” he said.

At 6:40 p.m., in a stadium where tacos are sold in miniature helmets, Wright walked to the plate in a game for the first time in more than three months as he continued to rehabilitate from spinal stenosis.

With “I Got 5 on It” playing through Tradition Field’s speakers, Wright approached the batter’s box. He was nervous. He remembered the good-luck texts from his friends and relatives and teammates. He shuffled dirt around with his feet, adjusted his batting gloves and took a practice swing.

He took a ball from Matt Batts, the Fort Myers starter. Then Wright swung smoothly and hit an arcing ball into center field. It was caught, and Wright trotted off the field.

“It was a first good step,” said Wright, who wore his Mets helmet during the game. Wright said he did not experience any pain playing on Monday. He plans to play five innings at third base Tuesday.

The Mets placed Wright on the disabled list April 15 with a right hamstring strain. While rehabilitating from that injury, he hurt his lower back and was found to have spinal stenosis.

His first at-bat was a symbolic moment: the face of the Mets, through many bad seasons, taking an important step in his recovery in an effort to rejoin the team as it pushes for its first playoff berth since 2006.

Wright, who had completed five consecutive days of workouts in Port St. Lucie, expressed cautious optimism about his return to the major leagues. He did not want to rush back and risk playing at less than full health.

“It’s twofold: Obviously I want to get up there as quickly as possible, but I don’t want to get up there and struggle and be a burden in the lineup,” Wright said.

Manager Terry Collins said he had not determined a timetable for Wright’s return. Most of Collins’s focus, he said, is on the 25 players on the active roster.

“When they tell me David Wright is ready, he’ll become part of that mix,” Collins said. “Right now, I have no idea how long it’s going to take. I have no idea how he’s going to feel.”

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After Wright sustained a stress fracture in his lower back in 2011, he had 21 at-bats in the minor leagues before returning to the Mets.

In his second at-bat Monday — after a fan had shouted, “C’mon, David,” and Wright had swung late on two pitches, fouling them into the net behind home plate — he worked a 3-2 count and laced a single into left-center field.

“Hits are fun,” Wright said.

Nearly an hour later, he walked to the plate for the third time and walked after six pitches. He scored a run later in the inning, rounding the bases seemingly without a hitch. “It felt fast,” he said.

Over all, it seemed like a relatively auspicious start for Wright, who had said last week that the injury to his back had forced him to change his mechanics: He now uses his core and hips more to alleviate stress on his back, and he focuses more on his feet when throwing.

But the injury has not changed his instinctive approach to baseball, he said.

“When you get out there, I can’t start thinking about: ’What if this? What if that?’ ” Wright said. “You just play the game.”

Wright took about 15 swings at batting practice, pumping several balls to the outfield fences. After Kirk Nieuwenhuis, also rehabilitating in Port St. Lucie, blasted a pitch over the fence, Wright said, “Oh my, it’s that easy?”

If and when he does return, Wright said last week, he is willing to play wherever Collins needs him.

“There’s still some steps for me to go, but it gets me pumped up to try to help those guys out,” Wright said.

Then he looked up at the television.



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