David Wright: Neck issue 'beyond something that can be rushed'

ByAdam Rubin via ESPN logo
Friday, July 1, 2016

NEW YORK -- New York Mets third baseman David Wright appears resigned to missing the remainder of this season, although he predicted his career is not over.

"I'm going to be out for an extended period of time. ... But I plan on coming back and being the player that I feel like I'm capable of being. We shall see," Wright said Friday at Citi Field, in his first public comments since undergoing surgery June 16 to repair what Wright said was a "significant disk rupture" in his neck.

Wright, 33, acknowledged he will lose about 5 percent of the range of motion in his neck because he required fusion in addition to a discectomy.

Dr. Robert Watkins, who has also treated Wright for spinal stenosis in his lower back, spoke with urgency in advocating surgery to address the disk issue, Wright said. The only question was what type of procedure to undergo.

Watkins removed the damaged disk and fragments that were putting pressure on Wright's spinal cord. Doctors were concerned those fragments could cause bruising or permanent damage if not treated swiftly with surgery.

The surgery was performed through Wright's throat, with the fusion process aided by bone marrow extracted from Wright's hip. Screws and a plate were inserted.

"I hope that this is correct, but when this heals, it should be as good as new," Wright said.

Wright noted the fusion will put more pressure on other disks. Still, Watkins believes those disks are "fairly healthy" and should be able to handle the extra load, Wright said.

Wright still is dealing with residual pain and soreness from the surgery, although it has lessened in the past week. He is due to stop using pain medications next week.

Wright said a bigger concern than the residual pain is losing his balance or someone accidentally bumping him, because any jolt can have serious repercussions. Because he would be defenseless in the dugout, Wright began watching Mets home games from the bullpen Thursday.

Wright is required to wear a neck brace when he is around people and while riding in a car. He started putting his socks and shoes on and taking walks this week, which he deemed progress.

He has an appointment scheduled for three months after the surgery to determine the progress of the fusion. And because no real activity will take place in the interim, it precludes returning this season.

"You can do the math," Wright said. "The next three months, it's really not doing anything. It's letting the bones fuse together."

Wright stressed that his primary focus, for now, is getting healthy to avoid having any post-baseball issues with his neck. He already will have enough to deal with since the spinal stenosis in his lower back is chronic.

"This is, for me, in my mind, beyond something that can be rushed to try to get back on the baseball field," Wright said. "The sense of urgency for this in the doctor's voice was much greater than the sense of urgency when I talked to him about my back last year.

"I love the game of baseball. I can't wait to get back out there. But the most important thing for me now is my health and trying to get my neck healed, because if I go and do something that I'm not supposed to, we're not talking about baseball. We're talking about something that's going to affect me later in life."

Wright acknowledged that his lower-back issue will complicate the process of preparing for games once he gets back on the field.

"It took me a little longer to get ready for spring training this year because of the back," Wright said. "Now that I'm immobile for the foreseeable future, it'll be interesting to see how my back responds to that. And I think it will be interesting to see what it takes to get my back where it was while I was playing."

Wright said he had no hard feelings that the Mets worked out free-agent Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gourriel last week. If the Mets sign Gourriel, it could mean third base won't be available once Wright returns, because Gourriel would require a multi-year contract.

"They've got to do what it takes to get this team better and back to the playoffs," Wright said. "I'm no good on the field right now."

Wright is signed through 2020, although insurance should soon begin covering 75 percent of his salary for the time he misses.

Within days, Jose Reyes should be promoted from Double-A Binghamton and man third base for the Mets.

Asked for his reaction to Reyes' reunion with the organization, Wright said, "I love it. He's a very good friend of mine."

While Wright predicted that Reyes' energy would have a positive impact on the Mets, Wright was also highly critical of Reyes' Oct. 31 domestic-violence incident.

"I feel like what he did was awful, terrible," Wright said. "There's just no other way around it. With that being said, in my eyes, he's done what he could do to earn a second chance. If he's going to be given a second chance, I think this is a good place for it. I think he's comfortable here. This is home for him. I can't say it enough: What he did is something that is horrible and should never be done. So I hope that he's learned his lesson. In everything he said, it seems like he's acknowledged the great mistake that it was and that he's not going to let it happen again, and I hope that's correct."

As for Wright's health issues, he said he had no regrets.

"At some point, your body, I would say, gives way," Wright said. "I think it's just natural, especially when you play since I was 4 or 5 years old. Of course, there's wear and tear in my body.

"If you told me, yeah, you'd have to have a neck surgery, you'd have some back issues, hell, I'd do it all over again because I enjoy what I do. And I plan on continuing to enjoy what I do."

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