PORT ST. LUCIE — He squatted. He lunged. He twisted and he stretched. He jogged forward, backward and laterally.
Then David Wright slipped away, as inconspicuously as possible, from the 2017 Mets’ inaugural full-squad workout Sunday at Tradition Field, as his teammates advanced from warming up to playing catch.
So began a sort of “Lather, rinse, repeat” pattern for the rehabilitating Mets’ captain, who spent the 2 ¹/₂-hour work shift alternately joining and leaving his teammates. Throwing softly in a secluded area. Hitting with everyone else.
In spirit, Wright is fully a member of this Mets team. In reality, he’s not all there. When it comes to their injury-prone third baseman, the Mets must hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
“We have to see how he progresses over the next two or three weeks before we start making assumptions, or assuming that he’ll be available to us at the end of spring training,” Sandy Alderson said following the workout. “… We’re optimistic, but I think we just have to see how things develop.”
“We’ve got a little bit of time to where you don’t want to map it out to where it’s kind of perfectly [structured] in case there are a couple of days that don’t go as expected,” said Wright, who also is battling a cold. “But for the time being, I think we’ve got a pretty good plan going into spring to try to balance getting me at-bats and getting me ready offensively while kind of getting ready defensively as well.”
Asked whether that plan called for Wright to be ready for Opening Day, he said, “Yeah, I think so. You never know what is going to happen tomorrow, or the next day, or some bumps that might happen in the road. But yeah, that’s the plan, for sure.”
Any plan for a guy who has played in just 75 games over the prior two seasons, as has Wright, must be taken with many grains of salt.
The plan Sunday, as advertised by Terry Collins, called for Wright to make his first throws of the year after weeks of fielding grounders at third base and flipping the balls to a nearby coach. It promised to be the most interesting optic of the day, given that Wright hadn’t unleashed any throws since he underwent fusion surgery on his neck last June.
Given that advance hype, it made sense that Wright wound up conducting this exercise in a back field in the morning, apparently while the media worked in the clubhouse as the other Mets’ players got ready for the day. Wright said his schedule resulted from the crowded space of four college teams playing games here, yet no one would blame him for wanting to avoid such scrutiny.
Wright made about 30 easy throws from 60 to 70 feet.
“It was fun,” he said, “but still a ways to go before I start feeling really comfortable. It was really easy today, just kind of going through the motions. So hopefully it just gets better and better each day and I feel a little bit more and more comfortable.”
For now, Wright said, he’ll probably throw every other day.
On the positive side, while he hardly crushed the ball during four turns of batting practice against Mets bullpen coach Ricky Bones — his last hit of his third turn hit the left-field fence on a short hop, his best shot — he at least appeared at ease as he stroked a number of line drives.
Multiple team officials have said that Wright looks better than he did a year ago at this time, as Wright has agreed in his self-assessment.
“I would say last year at this time I was curious and still learning how to manage that [spinal stenosis],” Wright said. “… I feel more comfortable with my back. I feel confident with my neck hopefully to get in games earlier. How early, I’m not sure.”
If Wright can’t return, his old pal Jose Reyes will be the everyday third baseman again. The first step: Get off his own program and back fully with the rest of the Mets he has been charged to lead.
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