MIAMI — David Wright must re-live the nightmare of a year ago, when he was forced to spend much of the summer as a captive to his own ailing body.
The Mets announced on Friday that Wright has been placed on the disabled list. He will be shut down from all baseball activity for six to eight weeks as he tries to avoid season-ending surgery for the herniated disc in his neck.
At earliest, Wright will return in August, though any setback would leave him scrambling to return before season’s end, like last year.
The seven-time All-Star leaves a void, not just in the lineup but in the clubhouse. He has been the team’s undisputed leader despite myriad physical problems that have spurred doubts about his ability to remain a productive major-leaguer.
“It’s going to be tough,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’ve got to pick it up certainly in the clubhouse. His leadership off the field is second to none. We need to pick that part of it up. We just hope he gets better, we just hope he gets through this. I know he’ll put the time and effort into rehab to get back. I just hope he gets back here soon.”
According to the Mets, Wright will undergo “appropriate physiotherapy” to protect his neck area. He also will deal with the constant unpredictability of spinal stenosis, the back condition that limited him to 38 games last season.
Instead of heading to Miami as planned on Friday, Wright flew to California, where he will meet on Monday with the same specialist who shepherded him through his spinal stenosis diagnosis.
Collins said he expects Wright to return before season’s end. But even he admitted to being taken aback by the six to eight weeks that Wright must endure before even beginning baseball activities.
“I was very, very surprised,” Collins said. “We were talking the other day saying should we be smart and just put him on the 15-day [DL] maybe a week ago when it first acted up. That wouldn’t have been good enough. Yeah, it’s pretty shocking to hear about the length of time needed to get better.”
Wright, 33, missed only one game this season specifically because of his back condition, though he and Collins were forced to carefully choreograph his playing time.
Matt Reynolds has been recalled to take Wright’s spot on the active roster. Wilmer Flores will take over at third base, and his performance will dictate how aggressively the Mets will pursue a longer-term replacement.
Flores has struggled badly in a utility role, hitting .167 in a season that was interrupted by a hamstring strain. He hopes regular playing time will help him find a rhythm that has proved elusive. Said Flores: “Since I got here, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity, and it’s an opening.”
But the Mets appear prepared to make a move to strengthen themselves at third base, especially with the lineup made more vulnerable by other injuries. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud and first baseman Lucas Duda have not returned from extended absences of their own.
Danny Valencia (A’s), Aaron Hill (Brewers), Trevor Plouffe (Twins) and Yangervis Solarte (Padres) are among those expected to be available, according to rival scouts and executives.
Wright is owed $20 million this season. His deal is insured, with the Mets able to recoup a portion of his salary if he misses 60 or more games while on the DL. Considering the injury, such an absence is possible.
Wright has not played since May 27. He was hitting .226 with seven homers and had a stunning 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats. He also battled diminished range and arm strength at third base. Nevertheless, he had shown signs of a modest turnaround, having homered in each of his last three games.
Wright first hoped that anti-inflammatory medication might help the condition. When the effects were minimal, he received a pain-killing injection in hopes that it would quiet the pain. It did not.