At first glance, David Wright looked like a mummy, moving stiffly with a cumbersome wrap protecting the herniated disc in his neck. Earlier, he had been given a painkilling injection in what may be a last-ditch effort to keep him on the field.
But for the Mets’ most established ambassador, other duties remained to be fulfilled. So, less than an hour later, Wright ditched the wrap and emerged from the clubhouse to meet with police officers and their families. As he chatted, signed autographs and posed for pictures, he took care not to move his neck too quickly.
A few moments later, he repeated the same drill with another group, all with the grace of a statesman. As he leaned in for photos, his broad smile masked an increasingly uncertain future.
“This guy has been a special player in baseball,” manager Terry Collins said. “Certainly, being the captain and the face of this organization, a manager’s worst nightmare is to see a star start to fade.”
Will Wright ever resemble the player he had been? The answers thus far have not been promising, especially now that Wright finds himself fighting health battles on two fronts, his neck and his back.
“We won’t know until he sees how he comes out of the neck thing,” said Collins, who will continue to play shorthanded until a decision is made.
An answer should come by Thursday, an off day before the Mets begin a weekend series against the Marlins in Miami. By then, Wright should know whether the pain-relieving injection will allow him to keep battling through another ailment in addition to his balky back.
If not, the Mets’ next step is unclear. A similar injury to former Mets closer Bobby Parnell ultimately led to surgery. With Wright, it’s an option that Collins said has yet to be discussed.
“[Parnell] certainly didn’t come back from it very good,” Collins said. “But David’s a tough guy, plays through a lot of pain. We’ll wait to see how he is in a couple of days.”
Wright’s toughness never has been in question, and his latest round of health issues has only reinforced his reputation. But after hitting his seventh homer, he has missed four straight games since the pain in his neck became too much to handle.
Doctors initially began a course of anti-inflammatory medications, though they had only minimal impact.
For Wright, it is just another complication, one that could squash his efforts to play through the spinal stenosis that has subjected him to a daily game of health roulette.
Said Collins: “There’s a lot of guys in this room that would not do what he does every day just to get ready to play a baseball game.”
According to Collins, the Mets already have begun discussing options in case Wright must go on the disabled list. Collins refused to divulge details. But for now, it appears that prospect Dilson Herrera isn’t in line to be promoted.
Of course, the Mets would rather have Wright overcome his latest health scare.
“I think David’s got a lot of baseball left in him because of the way he prepares and the way he gets himself ready,” Collins said. “But it’s hard to watch what he’s going through.”