Wright says return from neck surgery will likely be in 2017
NEW YORK (AP) David Wright walked stiffly from the clubhouse to the corridor outside the Mets batting cage, stood in front of a wall, a large white bandage covering the skin just below his Adam’s apple.
“I plan on coming back and being the player that I feel like I’m capable of being,” he said. “When this heals, it should be as good as new.”
New York’s captain had surgery June 16 to repair a herniated disk in his neck, rejoined the team Thursday and spoke to media Friday for the first time since Dr. Robert Watkins operated in Marina del Rey, California. Wright said it was not a matter of whether to have surgery but what type.
“The sense in 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,” Wright said. “I had a significant disk rupture. … They were afraid it could bruise or it could cause permanent damage.”
Wright kept his head centered, shoulders back, a bit like Lurch in “The Addams Family.” He is scheduled for X-rays six weeks after the operation and will not be allowed to start rehabilitation until three months following the surgery. That timetable makes a 2016 return unlikely.
“It’s really not doing anything. It’s letting the bones kind of fuse together,” he said.
Doctors made Wright stay in California for a week after the surgery in order to monitor him. He said the large bandages were taken off Thursday, and he watched that night’s 4-3 comeback win over the Chicago Cubs from the Mets bullpen. He was in the bullpen again Friday, holding a mirror on a pole that allowed him to see peripherally and behind.
“I’m not allowed to be in the dugout because I’m fairly helpless right now so if there comes a foul ball in there, I’m not going to have much of a way to protect myself,” he said. “That will be my new spot for the foreseeable future. At least I get to be in uniform. At least I get to be around the action. I get to see it from a different perspective. Maybe I didn’t have as much respect for the bullpen guys that I might have at the end of this.”
Mets manager Terry Collins said Wright’s demeanor helps the other players.
“We’re all glad to have him back,” he said. “He brings a little different atmosphere in the clubhouse.”
Wright looked thinner and said after surgery “sitting up was kind of a two-man job to try to get me up.” He remains on pain medication and will keep using it for another week. He has an “anxiousness of just mis-stepping, losing my balance or having somebody come up and slap me in the back.”
“I’m more worried about that right now than I am the actual pain,” he said. “There’s a neck brace that I’m supposed to wear kind of at times where I’m around a lot of people or might get bumped into or riding in a car.”
Now 33, the third baseman was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He returned and helped the Mets win their first NL pennant since 2000, and at the time of his latest injury he was batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.
Always open, Wright talked about his surgery in detail.
“They go through the front of your neck, so when they’re going through the front, they’ve got to move some stuff around, so you’ve got a sore throat for a little while,” he said. “They removed the disk, they removed the fragments and whatever was substance that was inside the disks off of my spine. They put a little metal cage. They fit it into the space that the disk was in. … They stick a hollow-bit drill into your hip. They get some of that bone marrow out. They put it in the cage to help with the fusion, and then they put the screws and the plate in.”
He does not think the stenosis will complicate his return from neck surgery, though he thinks it might slow his recovery.
“It will be interesting to see what it takes to get my back where it was while I was playing,” he said.
Because of his extended absence, Wright would not mind if the Mets make a move at third base, like signing Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel.
“If they feel like there’s a better option, obviously they owe it to the fans, they owe it to themselves, they owe it to the organization to pursue it,” he said.