NEW YORK -- This year is better than last year for David Wright, because at this time last year he couldn't play. This year, he can do things like he did Tuesday night, when his seventh-inning single drove in the deciding run to give the New York Mets a 4-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
Wright's situation isn’t perfect: The spinal stenosis in his back, the problem that limited him to 38 regular-season games last year, isn't going away. It can only be managed, something that isn’t easy on any day and is tougher on nights when the temperature drops, as it did Tuesday.
So Wright, 33, starts getting ready at 2 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game, knowing he needs two hours before the Mets take batting practice. He huddles with manager Terry Collins to plan strategic days off, and knows there will be a day when he's in the lineup but his body tells him he can't go.
"Every day it sucks," Wright said late Tuesday night. "Every day it sucks getting ready for the game. But I enjoy playing the game. So it's worth it. You know, 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."
Some days he can do it, and there are hints of the David Wright who made seven All-Star teams. Some days, it's not there. The game-winning RBI Tuesday was just the fifth RBI for Wright in 67 at-bats over 16 games. He's hitting just .239, with 28 strikeouts.
"I'm satisfied I've put in the work to be able to play," he said. "You're never satisfied with where you are as a player."
Wright won't say that his back affects his performance, but it's fairly obvious it does.
"I know David," Collins said. "He's fighting it really, really hard. He's got to come in every day and tell me how it feels. The other day, he said, 'I've got to make sure I don't overdo this.' He's absolutely right.
"It's good for the whole team when he's out there. Great players do unbelievable things when you need them to."
The Mets needed Yoenis Cespedes' dramatic pinch-hit three-run home run Tuesday night, but they also needed Wright's run-scoring single. Cespedes should be in the lineup Wednesday night. Wright hopes to be, too.
"I'd like to play," Wright said. "I want to play. I know what's best for me and the team is I get those occasional off days."
It sure is better than the four months off he got last year.