Wright hopeful to play 'not only this year, but sooner rather than later'

SAN DIEGO -- Captain David Wright predicted he will return to the New York Mets this season but is unsure when the nerve irritation in his lower back will calm enough to allow that to happen.

Wright, speaking publicly for the first time since being diagnosed with a narrowing of his spinal cavity that has resulted in back discomfort, is in San Diego visiting teammates Tuesday and Wednesday. He will continue to undergo rehab for the spinal stenosis condition under the care of Dr. Robert Watkins in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future. Wright has not played since April 14.

"I've been reassured by a number of doctors and therapists that I'm using that I am going to come back not only this year, but sooner rather than later," Wright said. Wright, 32, said the stenosis is caused by a combination of having a genetically narrow spinal cavity, calcium deposits that accumulated after a stress fracture in 2011 and the wear and tear of twisting and other baseball movements on the disks in his lower back.

He is undergoing physical therapy seven days a week and meets with Watkins on Mondays. When the nerve inflammation has been given a sufficient amount of time to calm -- and when physical therapists sign off that Wright can do movements without discomfort -- Wright will be cleared to start thinking about baseball.

"It's trying to get to the point where your nerves aren't so suffocated in that small space," Wright said.

As for the physical therapy, he added: "There's physical tests that I have to be run through that I have to pass and do well with, and I'm not there right now. They run me through the physical tests and I just flat out can't do it."

Wright said he has dealt with lower back discomfort and tightness ever since returning from a two-month absence in 2011 for the stress fracture. He believes this season's increased intensity is related to the right hamstring strain that initially sent him to the disabled list in mid-April.

He was administered a series of epidural injections last week in L.A. and naively presumed he would feel good enough to quickly swing a bat. That did not happen.

"Really what brings on the achiness and the discomfort and the tightness is in an upright position," Wright said. "And that's just classic symptoms for the condition that I have. So it's a matter of trying to be symptom-free."

Wright said Watkins, as well as team doctor David Altchek, has warned him to avoid surgery.

"It's different if you're older -- not having to move around and try to perform at this level," Wright said. "Having that surgery is completely different than a 32-year-old going in for that surgery and solving the problem. ... The biggest thing that the doctor continues to reiterate with me is you want to avoid surgery at all costs. And if that means being a little more conservative, then that means being a little more conservative, because we're not just talking about playing baseball. We're talking about walking and standing and being pain-free."

Wright's rehab consists of trying to strengthen and stabilize the area around the spinal cavity in his lower back. He said doctors have strongly advised him to be conservative, even when he eventually returns. Trying to play through any discomfort in the future could have grave implications and prompt the need for surgery.

"I don't expect him back in the next couple of weeks by any means," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "But, at the same time, we do expect him back sometime this season. We just have to wait and see when we can make a better, more precise assessment of when that will be."

Alderson said there will be no immediate juggling of the Mets' infield alignment, although he allowed that Daniel Murphy could again move from second base to third base when Dilson Herrera returns from the disabled list in about two weeks.

Alderson said the team could even be open at some point to moving Wilmer Flores off shortstop to fill another infield void. The newfound receptiveness to potentially moving Flores is because it would not be viewed as a failure of Flores to handle shortstop. It would just be seen as a better overall infield alignment defensively in Wright's absence, according to Alderson.

Wright said part of the frustration is the uncertainty about the time frame for his return.

"You fracture a bone, you pull a hamstring, there's normally a timeline -- three weeks, five weeks, four weeks, whatever the case may be," Wright said. "And this just isn't that. It literally is a week-to-week process where I'm going to therapy seven days a week. I'm seeing the doctor once a week to go over the progress."