MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Hard work pays off for Wright with game-winning hit

Hard work pays off for Wright with game-winning hit

NEW YORK -- For David Wright, these are the nights that make all the struggles worth it as he laced the game-winning single in a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Reds on Tuesday at Citi Field.

And believe him, he's struggling to play through chronic spinal stenosis in his lower back, and each day is a pain, both literally and figuratively.

"Every day it stinks, every day it stinks getting ready for the game, but I enjoy playing the game," said the Mets' captain and third baseman afterward. "So it's worth it. It's no fun doing the preparation for the preparation. But if I want to play and give myself the best chance to be healthy, you've got to do what you've got to do."

There is no angst in Wright's voice as he says this. In fact, he speaks about playing through the pain, the stiffness, the tightness -- exacerbated by the chilly weather -- with a smile on his face.

A year ago, it was just about this time when Wright embarked on four months of diagnosis and rehab, returning just in time for the Mets' run to the World Series. There was some euphoria in that. Now, it's just the daily grind.

Wright came into the game with three hits and two RBIs in his past 25 at-bats. The slump went to 3-for-28 before he came up to hit with two outs in the seventh and Curtis Granderson on third. Three runs were already in by virtue of Yoenis Cespedes' dramatic three-run pinch-hit homer, which tied the score, 3-3.

Granderson tripled. Asdrubal Cabrera struck out. And that left Wright facing left-hander Tony Cingrani trying to get the job done, and he did. Addison Reed pitched in the eighth. Jeurys Familia in the ninth. Game over.

"I just wanted to go up there, forget about the mechanics, forget about the timing and just try to compete," Wright said. "Just find a way to battle, to put the fat part of the bat on the ball. I was fortunate. It wasn't the prettiest of things, but it got the job done."

Wright will take it at this point. To give everyone the idea of the toll this is taking, Wright arrived at the ballpark at 2 p.m. ET on Tuesday to prepare for the 7:10 p.m. ET game. That's the routine every day.

Terry Collins, his manager, is watching and listening. There are open lines of communication between the two.

"He comes in and checks on me on a daily basis," Wright said. "Fortunately I haven't taken myself out of the lineup yet. That might come. It hasn't happened, but he's always concerned with if I'm telling the truth."

Here's the truth about his condition, and in this case, Wright gazed down to the floor and became a little glum.

"I mean, it's as expected," he said. "Things haven't gotten any better. I mean, they haven't gotten any worse. That's all I'm asking for is to try and stay somewhere in between the good and the bad."

Collins is well aware that Wright now is the ultimate day-to-day player, and he's trying to treat him accordingly. He has nothing but admiration for him.

"I know David is really fighting it hard," Collins said. "We just had a conversation. He's going to come in tomorrow and tell me if he's ready, if he can go. That's the way we're doing it now. After a couple of games in a row, he's got to come in and let me know how he feels.

"The other day, he said, 'I've got to make sure I don't overdo this.' He's absolutely right."

Wright is 33 years old and has four seasons beyond this one on his eight-year, $138 million contract. In all fairness, he should be reaching the zenith of his career and enjoying a powerhouse team that has all the elements of a potential World Series champion.

But sometimes life is not fair. Instead, Wright is trying to savor the moments like Tuesday night, full well knowing the process of preparation begins anew again on Wednesday. And the day after that and the day after that. Until he can't do it any longer.

"I'm satisfied," Wright said. "I'm very satisfied that I've put in the work to be able to play. I'm proud of that. You don't whine and moan about it. That's my mindset. If something happens with the back, it's going to happen. I'm doing everything I can to prevent it.

"When I put my head on the pillow at night, I say, 'You know what? I did everything I could to prepare to play and to try to keep my back healthy.' Hopefully that's the case, knock on wood. But if not, there's nothing else I can do."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.