PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets captain David Wright received good-luck text messages from family, friends and teammates. He took 90 minutes with a physical therapist to prepare before the game. Then, shaking off some nerves, Wright played in his first official game in nearly four months.
Wright finished 1-for-3 with a walk as the designated hitter for the Class A St. Lucie Mets against Fort Myers on Monday night in the first game of a rehab assignment. He plans to play five innings at third base on Tuesday for the Florida State League club, which he expects to be an even more significant step.
Although Wright landed on the DL after the Mets' April 19 game with a right hamstring strain, it was a bout with spinal stenosis in his lower back that has kept him sidelined for most of his absence. At one point, he had difficulty standing upright and walking.
"Any time you haven't played in a game in a few months, it takes a little bit to get it back, get your legs under you," Wright said. "But I thought today was, all in all, a good day."
Wright went 10-for-21 with six walks with St. Lucie during a summer rehab assignment in 2011 as he worked back from a stress fracture in his lower back. He expects a similar number of plate appearances should be sufficient this time to be activated from the disabled list, barring a flare-up with the back. Still, he wants to make sure he is sharp before rejoining the Mets to avoid weighing down the club, which leads the NL East.
"I'm curious about everything at this point," Wright said. "You can only do so much rehab to get you ready for this point. All bets are off when you get out in the field. Even running the bases -- diving around, sliding around. So it will be a good test tomorrow at third. I'm going to try to play within myself and not go crazy, but it's easier said than done when you're out there in a game situation. I'm curious to see how I feel tomorrow. I'm curious to see how I play the field. I'm curious to see just moving around, where things are a little less controlled."
Out of courtesy for his current minor league teammates, Wright plans to arrive to the ballpark earlier for the rest of his rehab assignment to avoid dominating the training staff's time. Ninety minutes of pregame work with the physical therapist and stretching is the new norm for Wright at age 32, coming off a serious back condition.
"When I was 21, it was just roll out of bed and do a couple of twists and turns and ready to go," Wright said. "I think gradually I've tried to warm up properly. But now, it's a whole different beast going through the program that the doctors and therapists have set forth for me. It's a longer day. No question."
After singling in his second plate appearance against Fort Myers left-hander Mat Batts, Wright quickly was forced out at second base. When he walked in the following plate appearance, he then had to go first to third on 2013 first-round pick Dominic Smith's single. He scored on Victor Cruzado's groundout.
"I reacted. I didn't think about my back," Wright said. "I didn't think, 'Hey, maybe I should just pull here into second.' I just let the instincts take over. That's exactly what I wanted to do.
"It's a small step," he said. "I think tomorrow will be a bigger step just in playing on both sides of the ball. To actually come out here and participate in a game from where I felt a couple of months ago is solid. I feel good about that. I take pride in putting that work in to get to this point, because a couple of months ago, I was hurting pretty badly."
Wright said he was pleased that he got to face a harder-throwing right-hander, Jake Reed, in his final plate appearance, because he saw a 93 mph fastball, plus a slider with run. He popped out to second base to end that at-bat.
He said he was also pleased he did not think about his back while playing.
"When you get out there, I can't start thinking about, 'What if this? What if that?' " he said. "You just play the game. Hopefully, all goes well, but I can't sit there and try to protect myself too much, because, at some point, you just have to let loose and play the game and let your reactions take over. I hope nothing comes up with the back. Obviously, there's no guarantees, but I've done everything I can to prepare myself for this point."