Mets 3B David Wright is realistic about the uphill climb ahead of him, but is not giving up on his goal to return.
"When it's all said and done I want me to be able to say I did everything I could," Wright said Saturday morning in Port St. Lucie. "If it works, that's obviously the goal. And if it doesn't work, then I'll rest easy knowing that I gave it my best shot."
"I'd love to play again," he added. "But my body's got to hold up and it's going to have to cooperate with me a little bit."
Wright said he's still in the rehab process, and that he's been in constant communication with his doctors about determining the progression.
"We're at the point now where we can begin to try to ramp it up a bit more," he said. "I guess baby steps are still steps in the right direction."
However, Wright does not want to put a timeline on things.
"No," he said when asked about a potential return date. "I guess in my head I do (have one), but I hate putting timelines on anything. When you're talking about injuries or surgeries, last thing I want to do is put expectations out that I may or may not be able to meet. ... when we get to the point where my body tells me 'hey, you know I think we can do this,' then we'll try to do it."
The 35-year-old Wright has been limited to 75 games over the past three seasons (and didn't play at all in 2017) due to spinal stenosis and other ailments, and has recently undergone three surgeries. He said it's been frustrating not being able to do the thing he loves to do.
"Certainly very frustrating," Wright said. "When you're used to doing something your entire life and it's kind of taken away from you, it's defintely frustrating. Every day I'm reminded when I come in and I see everybody else get in uniform and go out there and do the things that I love to do. And I'm stuck in the training room doing rehab stuff. Frustration is an understatment."
Wright said if he's able to return, he's confident he can get caught up to speed and perform, but he needs to get to the point where he "can physically do it."
Regarding the potential of retirement, Wright said it would be easier if he didn't still have the passion to play.
"It's a decision I think every athlete wants to make where it's, you know, they get to make that decision," he said. "You don't want your body making that decision for you. I think that the mindset is now -- as frustrating as it is and as many questions as I have about myself as there is -- the only thing I can do is to come in every day, try to do better than I did the day before in rehab. And then if we get to the point where I'm feeling good enough to give it a go, then I certainly want to give it a go."
The Mets recently signed 3B Todd Frazier to a two-year deal, and Wright said he was given a heads up by Mets COO Jeff Wilpon the night the deal happened, which Wright said meant a lot to him. He also said he doesn't blame the Mets "one bit" for signing someone who may ostensibly be his replacement.
"The way that I've been treated has been more than fair, and probably more than I deserve," Wright said.
"My mindset is we'll be a better team with both of us out there," he said about Frazier. "Certainly a terrific player, and somebody that I think is going to fit in well to this team. ... as far as both of us are concerend, it's business as usual."
"If my body cooperates, I can't wait to get back out there," Wright concluded. "And if it doesn't, we'll try to figure something else out."
Wright is under contract through the 2020 season. He will earn $20 million this season, followed by $15 million in 2019, and $12 million in 2020. A large chunk of his contract is covered by insurance, which kicks in when he misses a certain amount of games each season.
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From his debut against the Expos at Shea Stadium in July of 2004 -- when I bought tickets at the last minute to watch from loge reserved between first base and right field -- to 2013, Wright was on a Hall of Fame trajectory. The first serious injury to his lower back occurred in 2011, but it wasn't until 2014 that it all started going downhill.
And while Wright has delivered many 'state of his health' addresses over the last three years or so, the one he gave on Saturday morning in Port St. Lucie was the most painful to watch. He was upbeat, but open and realistic about the challenge ahead of him. And the odds of him making a triumphant return to the batters box at Citi Field seem much lower than the odds that he'll decide to retire -- whether that happens at some point during this season or after.
There are fans who are in Wright's corner, and have been this entire time. And there are fans who want him to just hang it up -- and those are the fans I don't understand.
Wright has given his all to this team, sticking it out through good times and bad. He has been one of the best position players this franchise has ever had, and an inspiration off the field. That he wants to do everything in his power to try to make it back should be lauded, not derided.
The fact is that the majority of Wright's salary, if he doesn't make it back, will be covered by insurance. Him busting his ass in an effort to return to doing what he loves is not a detriment to this team -- as evidenced by them signing Frazier.
When Wright returned from spinal stenosis in late-2015, he hit a homer in his first at-bat -- because of course he did. And when he stepped up to the plate at Citi Field in the bottom of the first inning in Game 3 of the World Series that fall, he hit a homer to give the Mets the lead in the only game they won in that series -- because of course he did.
If anyone can defy the odds and make it back, it's David Wright. And even if that means taking his place at third base one last time, getting in the batters box one last time, and going out on his terms, it will have all been worth it.