Mets 3B David Wright will play his first Grapefruit League game tonight when the Mets face the Nationals on SNY at 6 p.m., Terry Collins reiterated Thursday.
Wright, 33, missed 124 games last season, mostly due to lumbar spinal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the open spaces in the lower (lumbar) spine. He returned from the disabled list in late August and played in 44 of the team's final 52 games, including the postseason.
Wright has repeatedly said he and the team are intentionally slowing his work load this spring, 1) because he had less time to recover after last season, because the team played in to late October, and 2) because his spinal stenosis requires extra time stretching and preparing for games.
This spring, he said -- before enacting this plan -- that he researched to see how at-bat totals and games played may have impacted his seasons in the past and he saw no correlation between good and bad seasons and anything he did in spring training. And so, instead of worrying about at-bats, innings, etc., his preseason focus has been mostly about pre-game prep and creating a routine and strong communication with his coaches and training staff.
Last season, Wright played in 85 percent of the team's games after returning from the DL. In the event he plays at a similar rate this season, he would appear in roughly 140 games -- assuming he injures nothing else and misses no other time. Knowing David, he probably wants to play in all 162, but -- even without lumbar spinal stenosis -- that isn't going to happen. I mean, he has played in 135 games during a season only once since 2011. So, given his current condition, I can't see how he tops that. It just doesn't seem smart, let alone possible.
Instead, reading between the lines, my hunch is he'll end up playing 100-120 games, which would be around 500-550 at-bats. If he can do this, I believe he can still hit .275 with 15 HR and a .750 OPS, while playing a better-than-average third base. I'm thinking this is good for two, maybe three wins a season and around a $10 million value.
Obviously, that is less than what he'll be paid and what was expected of him when he signed his eight-year extension after 2012, but such is life. Nerve damage and stenosis is no joke. Believe me, I know.
Thankfully, Wright has world-class treatment and doctors. With the right plan, at the right pace, he should be able to spend more time on the field than off it. But it will come with limitations and deterioration, and so -- in that new reality, in that context -- those numbers and appearances should be acceptable.