To be clear: Wright is not experiencing pain with everyday activities. To set the record a bit straighter, I recently talked to two spine experts at Manhattan's Hospital for Special Surgery. Neither doctor had examined Wright personally, but after being briefed on his condition, their consensus was that it was not necessarily something that should prematurely end Wright's career. While it is almost certain that Wright will need to manage his spinal stenosis from now until retirement, a return to his pre-2015 level of production seems possible.
It is important to note that Wright is dealing with lumbar (lower back) stenosis, which tends to be far less serious than the cervical (neck) stenosis that ended New York Giants running back David Wilson's career.
"You can have stenosis and be pain-free for years," said Dr. Frank Cammisa, the doctor who operated on Wilson and chief of spine service at the Hospital for Special Surgery. "If you can settle down this incident, he doesn't have to have surgery for it. Whereas in general, if you have significant stenosis in the neck, that causes problems with the function of the cord. Then you have to operate."
In other words, while it's possible Wright's condition will grow worse, there's a very good chance he will be able to manage it and play pain-free for a significant period of time. Perhaps even years.
"You can manage the pain," said Dr. Andrew Sama, the fellowship director of spinal surgical service at HSS. "In older patients, we do surgery. But a lot of treatment is not surgical. You can modify your activity and how you do things."
The Mets say that the All-Star break is a realistic expectation for Wright's return. That may be ambitious, and Wright's medical team out in California will push that target back as much as necessary. The goal is to return without setbacks, ideally, for the rest of his career.
Whose idea was it for Wright stay in California? This isn't a second opinion/surgery, but means weeks of physical therapy away from the Port St. Lucie, Fla., mothership. Unusual?
Not really. This isn't anything like a Matt Harvey-style Tommy John rehab, where it's more about following a set protocol and progressing through the stages. Team employees can administer something like that just fine. Wright's situation is more complicated and far more rare, which is why he's out in California. Dr. Robert Watkins is widely recognized as one of the nation's top spine doctors, and he is meeting with Wright on a weekly basis.
Believe me when I say Wright would rather be just about anywhere else. He told me recently that he's bored out of his mind in California, binge-watching more television shows than he ever thought possible.
When Wright returns, does he go back to third, Murphy to second? What about Herrera? He adds some pop to the lineup.
That's the plan, though the Mets very much like what Herrera adds to their lineup. It wouldn't surprise me to see the club give Wright frequent days off -- one or two a week, every week -- and shift Murphy over to third on those occasions. That would open up a spot for Herrera to receive significant at-bats at second base, while coming off the bench on days he doesn't start.
And now on to a couple of non-Wright questions:
How will the Mets handle Steven Matz when he comes up? A six-man rotation, spot starter, bullpen role, trade?
The Mets have made it abundantly clear that they don't plan to use Matz, their top remaining starting pitching prospect, out of the bullpen. They've already gone down the six-man-rotation road and didn't like what they saw. Nor do the Mets have much incentive to swing a trade at this point; even if Rafael Montero comes back healthy and Dillon Gee finds his form in the Minors, the Mets have lost quite a bit of the starting pitching depth that they possessed in February. Sandy Alderson has hesitated to deal from that strength in the past, and I find it hard to believe he'll do so now.
So I think Matz will come up the same way Noah Syndergaard did: in a spot-starting role with a chance for more. A lot can change between now and the first half of July, when I suspect Matz will debut.
Can you see Jenrry Mejia moving into the eighth-inning role when he comes back in July?
Yes, for sure, because nobody has managed to lock that role down yet. While the Mets would love to be in a position where they don't need Mejia, the fact is, they could use him.
It won't happen immediately. But after Mejia returns to the clubhouse, gives his apologies and proves his worth in low-leverage situations, he could make a rapid ascent to the eighth. His presence is part of the reason why I don't expect the Mets to acquire a high-profile bullpen arm prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline.