Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Wright Starts Throwing, Still Long Way from Return

For the first time since last June, David Wright picked up a baseball and threw it. No it wasn’t at full speed, and the throws were not anywhere near regulation tosses across the diamond from third to first base. He’s not ready for that just yet.

Wright had 30 throws that averaged between 60-70 feet. He did the exercise in private with only the Mets training staff looking on.

If anything, Wright left without any discomfort, and reports are that he felt good, if not anxious to get back to the player he once was.

The questions will be how soon before Wright can play in Spring Training games, and when he does return, what will his position be?

First things first, the Mets have to get Wright back into game shape. Reports from nj.com say that Wright spent much of the offseason fielding grounders and taking batting practice when he could, but he’s still nowhere near where the Mets want him to be to play in a game.

Let’s remember that this is a man coming off a very tricky herniated disc surgery in his neck – an operation that required the procedure be done through his throat (ouch!). He hand plenty of inactivity, and had to live off a liquid diet, resulting in a significant weight loss.

This is also the same man who had spinal stenosis the season before, causing him to miss more than three-quarters of the 2015 season. In all Wright has played in 75 regular season games, with a .260 batting average, 12 homers and 31 RBI in two seasons combined.

Considering the circumstances, it’s hard to imagine Wright playing in the Mets preseason opener against Boston, or any of the Mets five games that close out the month of February. Expect to hear a lot about Wright working out in the backfields of Tradition Field for at least the first two weeks of spring training games until he can get back to full speed.

At 34-years-old, the Mets have to temper expectations, and make sure that Wright is 110 percent before throwing him to the wolves. They need him for April 3 against Atlanta at Citi Field, not March 3 against the Astros at Tradition Field.

When Wright does return to a major league diamond, where will he play? Lucas Duda is penciled in at first base. Jose Reyes is one of a number of faces that could fill in at third base.

Ideally the Mets could be looking at a platoon at the hot corner with Wright and Reyes taking turns at third base all season. (Who would have thought 11-years ago we’d be saying that about the Wright/Reyes tandem). Wright is most comfortable at third where he’s been a seven-time all star and two-time gold glove recipient.  When he was going well, nobody picked the ball out of the dirt better than Wright did.

But, the times they are a-changing. Reyes played 50 games at third base last year and made only six errors, showing he’s more than capable to handle the position.

A platoon at third could even affect the playing time of Asdrubal Cabrera or Lucas Duda. If Wright is playing third, one would imagine that Terry Collins would prefer to keep Reyes’ speed in the lineup, meaning Reyes would go back to short. Cabrera could be on the bench, or even at first base, benching Duda.

What about Wright to first?  John Harper from the Daily News noted that nobody from the organization has talked to Wright about moving to first base, and Terry Collins downplayed the idea.

Playing first base is not easy. The ball bounces off the bat differently. First baseman have to be prepared to jump at the ball quicker, and make plays on it like a goaltender. Thus far the Mets have shown little inclination to get Wright work over there. If they want him at first, they need to start working him there now.

More importantly the biggest question remains, how long will Wright play? Wright hasn’t played a full season since 2014, when he played in 134 games with 535 at bats. He hasn’t hit double-digits in homers since 2013, when he hit 18 bombs. He has not had a 90-RBI season since 2012. 

Honestly, Wright’s full time status as an everyday player is over. There is no way after two years of neck and back issues that he can play like he was 27. Realistically the Mets have to hope that Wright gets them 115 - 120 games this season, or roughly 400 – 450 at bats. If Wright returns to full strength that could be possible, if not, we could be looking at another year where Wright just barley cracks the lineup. 

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