David Wright understands why Mets couldn't wait on him any longer

David Wright understands why Mets couldn't wait on him any longer

PORT ST. LUCIE — It sounds as if David Wright finally has come to the realization — and to grips with — the likelihood that the end is near.

Wright spoke for the first time this spring at Mets camp on Saturday, and while he admirably refuses to give up on his multi-year quest to make it back to the field following multiple surgeries, the hobbled captain fully understands why the organization signed Todd Frazier as a more permanent replacement at third base this offseason.

He also understands why the Mets simply and clearly could not wait for him any longer.

“I’m going to give it my best shot, certainly. I probably have a lot of the same questions that you’re asking me, and a lot of people are asking of me. Because I just don’t know,” Wright said when asked in the home dugout at First Data Field how realistic he believes a return this season would be for him. “It’s certainly been an uphill climb for me, so I guess to honestly answer your question, I don’t know. I’m not sure what the expectation is.

“I’d love to play again, but my body’s got to hold up and it’s gonna have to cooperate with me a little bit.”

Wright’s body has gone through more pain and trouble in the past few seasons than any pro athlete should have to endure, from the spinal stenosis that first was diagnosed in 2015 to the neck, back and shoulder surgeries the seven-time All-Star third baseman has undergone over the past two lost years of his career.

“Certainly, (it’s been) very frustrating,” the 35-year-old Wright said. “When you’re used to doing something your entire life, and it’s kind of taken away from you, it’s definitely frustrating.

“Every day I’m reminded when I come in and I see everybody else get in uniform and go out there and do the things that I love to do and I’m stuck in the training room doing rehab stuff, frustration is an understatement. Again, it would be easy if I didn’t have that drive to get back out there. If I didn’t love what I did, it certainly would make things easier, but I do love what I do, and when it’s kind of abruptly taken away from you — I mentioned this earlier, when it’s all said and done, I want to be able to say I did everything I could.

“If it works, that’s obviously the goal and if it doesn’t work, I’ll rest easy knowing that I gave it my best shot.”

For practically 15 years now, Wright has been one of the most amicable and productive players ever produced by the Mets organization, and as such, I remain firmly in the camp that the decision to call it a career is his and his alone.

The Mets recouped 75 percent of Wright’s $20 million salary last season, and will do so on the remaining three years and $47 million owed him should he never resume a career that once seemed to be on a Hall of Fame trajectory.

“I’ve had a hard time with it certainly, but I guess you do what you can do and do everything in your power,” Wright said. “The biggest thing is I don’t want to when it’s all said and done I say I wish I would have done this or I wish I would have done that.

“You do it and then it’s out of your control. I challenge myself every day to be the rehab patient I can possibly and that’s kind of the competitiveness side I’m missing out on the field that I can still challenge myself in there. If it works out, that’s certainly the goal. If not, I did everything I can do. It’s as simple as that.”

To that end, Wright still has not even resumed running or any baseball activity. So even while saying he hopes to “begin to try to ramp it up a little bit more” in the coming weeks, any immediate return appears out of the question anyway.

Which is why the Mets were fully justified in signing Frazier to a two-year deal to man third base for the next seasons after a couple of years of keeping the light on for him by mostly patch-working the position together.

“Jeff (Wilpon) called me the night that it came out, which I very much appreciated, and he said he wanted to give me a heads up that, ‘hey, this is going to happen’ and that certainly meant a lot to me,” Wright said. “The way I look at is that we’re certainly, in my opinion, a very good team without me and my mindset is that we’ll be a better team with both of us out there.

“He’s certainly a terrific player and somebody that will fit in well with this team.”

Another typically diplomatic response, to be sure, but it’s impossible for even Wright to ignore that the Frazier signing finally represents some concession by the Mets that he can no longer be counted on to come back successfully.

“No, they’ve got to do certainly what’s best for them. I understand that,” Wright said. “You know, I think when you don’t play for as long as I haven’t and we’ve had a void there — this team is in a position to compete and they’ve got to go out there and do what’s best for them.

“I don’t blame them one bit. This organization has always treated me with the upmost respect. I’ve been around so long, this, to me, is a family environment. I’m not just talking about the players, I’m talking about front office, ownership, everybody. The way that I’ve been treated has been more than fair, probably more than I deserve. These guys have to do what’s best for this team and I certainly think that it’s a good fit.”

In the meantime, the work and the hope will continue. And any painful discussions or decisions about retirement will remain on hold.

“As I said earlier, it would be easier if I didn’t have that passion for what I do. I guess there’s something to be said for — it’s a decision that every athlete wants to make where it’s, you know, they get to make that decision,” Wright said. “You don’t want your body making that decision for you.

“I think that the mindset is now, as frustrating as it is and as many questions as I have about myself as there is, the only thing I can do is to come in every day, try to do better than I did the day before in rehab and if we get to the point where I’m feeling good enough to give it a go, then I certainly want to give it a go. If then I get to the point where the team decides that I’m helpful, that I’ll be helpful for them, then that’s certainly their decision. I want to get to that point where they have to make that decision.”

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Mets' Adrian Gonzalez believes he has ‘good grasp’ on back issues

Mets' Adrian Gonzalez believes he has ‘good grasp’ on back issues

PORT ST. LUCIE — Adrian Gonzalez has arrived, and now we will see if his back allows him to officially be back.

Gonzalez, signed by the Mets to a deal for the major-league minimum after his release by Atlanta, was limited by back issues to just 71 games last season with the Dodgers.

The five-time All-Star first baseman will compete with prospect Dominic Smith for playing time in spring training.

“I feel good right now, that’s the main thing,” Gonzalez said Friday morning at First Data Field. “I think everybody goes into spring training with the mentality you’re going to be healthy all year and so that’s my mentality. Last year I went into spring training with the mentality that my back wasn’t even an issue.

“Hopefully, it won’t be an issue. I think I got a good grasp on how to treat it and how to take care of it. It caught me by surprise in April and I had trouble getting it right from there. This whole offseason it’s been great and I haven’t had any issues or any setbacks, so I feel really good right now and I’m ready to go.”

Gonzalez, 35, posted just three home runs and a career-worst .642 OPS over 252 plate appearances with the Dodgers in 2017, missing their run to the World Series. Before that, he had driven in at least 90 runs in each of the previous 10 seasons, including more than 100 seven times.

Adrian Gonzalez 'absolutely' believes he can be productive as he'll compete with Dom Smith for first base job.

Adrian Gonzalez ‘absolutely’ believes he can be productive as he’ll compete with Dom Smith for first base job.

(Paul Sancya/AP)

“Absolutely,” Gonzalez replied when asked if he believes he still can be productive. “I think last year obviously it was just kind of like a cross-out year for me… But overall, when I was right, I put up pretty good numbers. I think if my body’s right and right now it is, I can go out there and do the things I’ve been able to do in the past, drive in a good amount of runs and have good at-bats.”

Gonzalez was a low-risk signing for the Mets; they are paying him just $545,000, with the Braves picking up the remainder of his $21.5 million deal following an offseason salary-dump trade with the Dodgers. He reiterated that he plans to help mentor Smith, the former first-round pick who struggled with a .198/.262/.395 slash line in 183 plate appearances late last season.

“I love it. If you ask all the young guys in L.A., it’s something I really enjoyed doing,” Gonzalez said. “If you talk to Corey (Seager), Joc (Pederson), up and down, I’m always open and always available and always willing to pass everything I know and everything I’ve learned from all of the studying I do and what I do and why I do it and how I do it. I just want to be available and be a servant.”

Either way, Gonzalez believes the Mets can contend if they can stay healthy. “Absolutely. Good teams, you start with the pitching obviously and (the Mets have) top pitching in the league,” he said. “And the position players we’re all experienced, we all bring a unique ability to the plate and we’ll be able to produce a lot of runs. It’s gonna be a fun season.”

Another free-agent signing, third baseman Todd Frazier, also made his first appearance of camp since signing a two-year deal worth $17 million last week.

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Harvey calls market freeze 'unfortunate,' won't discuss future

Harvey calls market freeze 'unfortunate,' won't discuss future

PORT ST. LUCIE — As a member of the executive board of the MLB Players Association — and entering his walk year ahead of free agency — Matt Harvey has a personal stake in the stagnant marketplace that has spilled into spring training.

“We’re all thinking about those guys and the biggest thing is that we’re doing a great job of staying together at the union,” Harvey said on Thursday at Mets camp. “We’ve been on many calls together as a whole, we’re definitely, as an executive (board), we’re definitely feeling for those guys and we’re there for them.

“It’s unfortunate what’s going on. The whole thing in baseball is you want to play against the best. In order to be the best, you have to play against the best. Right now, some of the best players aren’t signed. It’s pretty important. But right now that we’re thinking about those guys and hopefully they end up getting deals eventually.”

With various players, agents and union officials accusing MLB teams of hording revenues — and in some instances, collusion — marquee free agents such as Jake Arrieta, J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and dozens of others remain unsigned — with several players working out together this month at the IMG campus in Bradenton.

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“It’s eventually going to play itself out,” Harvey said. “Those guys were doing a good job of holding back and staying strong and staying together. I think it’s great having that facility for them to work out. Like I said, it will work itself out eventually.”

Harvey, who will earn $5.625 million this season, added that he won’t discuss his impending free agency during the 2018 campaign, while he attempts to regain some or all of his All-Star form after struggling since returning from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in 2016.

“I think as any player, your goal, or one of your goals, is to get to free agency, because it means you’ve played for a long time. But throughout the year, I’m not going to answer any questions about free agency,” Harvey said. “I think performance and putting everything I have into our goals as a team is more important than free agency.

“Obviously, everybody’s human and you always think about free agency. But our main goal is to win and get to where we want to be and that’s into the postseason and winning a championship.”

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Jay Bruce feels like he never left Mets, talks 'great' Callaway

Jay Bruce feels like he never left Mets, talks 'great' Callaway

PORT ST. LUCIE — Jay Bruce walked back into the Mets clubhouse around 9:30 on Thursday morning, and nothing about it felt strange to the returning right fielder.

“No, it was actually the opposite. It was very, very comfortable,” Bruce said before the Mets worked out at First Data Field. “It was honestly like I never left.

“Obviously, I went and had a lot of fun and had some great experiences over in Cleveland, but I’m back here now and hopefully here for the long haul.”

The Mets waited out the stagnant free-agent market and convinced Bruce to accept a three-year deal worth $39 million in January. The lefty slugger had been salary-dumped to Cleveland last August, and the Indians — with incoming Mets manager Mickey Callaway serving as their pitching coach — won the AL Central title before losing to the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs.

“I’m really excited. It’s obviously a welcomed sight to walk back in here. I’m excited about what’s to come,” Bruce said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen yet. But the team the Mets have put together on paper, with Mickey running the show, I’m really excited about the possibility and opportunity.

“I like our team, man, I really do. I think that it all goes back to health and if we’re healthy, I’d put us up against anyone….I think we just have to do everything we can to stay on the field and stay healthy and just play baseball.”

Bruce finished last season with 36 homers and 101 RBI combined for the Mets and the Indians; he expected to form a potent middle of the lineup with Yoenis Cespedes and fellow free-agent signing Todd Frazier, a longtime teammate in Cincinnati.

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Jay Bruce is back with the Mets after being shipped to the Indians.

(Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

“I think when Ces is on the field, the numbers speak for themselves. He’s obviously a game changer and like I said, everyone needs to do everything they can to stay in the lineup, and if we do that, I like our chances,” Bruce said of Cespedes, who was limited to 81 games last season due to multiple leg injuries. ”And (Frazier), we played a long time in Cincinnati together. I know he’s excited to be here and we’re excited to have him. He comes every day ready to play, so I look forward to that.”

Bruce also spoke highly again of Callaway, saying: “He’s great. He’s a normal dude. He has some experience, but he’s a little younger and he’s gonna be able to do what’s necessary as far as dealing with and creating a relationship with the team. He’s not a big rules guy, but he expects a lot out of you, because he expects a lot out of himself. I think preparation and working hard and being prepared, that’s paramount. I think as long as we do that, there’s not gonna be any issues.”

Plenty of issues still remain with the current free-agent class, however, with a multitude of marquee names still unsigned as camps open across baseball.

“Man, it’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like it,” the 30-year-old Bruce said. “I just hope for everyone that they end up getting to where they wanted to get to, and everyone finding jobs, and getting back going. I don’t know what there really is to say about it.

“I’m sure many people have a lot of different thoughts and theories and whatever, but fortunately I don’t have to concern myself with it too much. But I do hope that there is a resolution to it all, and everyone finds their spot, and no one is left without a chair when the music stops.”

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Mets’ first baseman Dominic Smith leaves unhealthy diet behind

Mets’ first baseman Dominic Smith leaves unhealthy diet behind

PORT ST. LUCIE — Jacob deGrom’s shorter hair isn’t the only startling difference you notice immediately among the Mets’ players at spring training.

Dominic Smith was challenged by GM Sandy Alderson at the end of last season to report in better condition following a lackluster and out-of-shape cameo over the final six weeks of 2017, and the longtime first base prospect clearly put in the requisite work over the offseason to accomplish that task.

It still appears as if Smith will open camp behind veteran free-agent signing Adrian Gonzalez for playing time at first base, but he reported at a lean 225 pounds, shedding nearly 30 from his highest weight from one year ago.

“I notice a difference in everything I do, even just walking around the house,” Smith told the Daily News on Wednesday. “Just getting up and moving around, having more energy, better posture, better stamina, better everything. And I definitely feel different already out on the field.

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“I feel like I get around way easier. I’m stronger in BP, more mobile, I can bend over and get back to my feet quicker and change directions quicker and react faster. I definitely see a big difference in this short period of time.”

Yes, we’ve all read far too many springtime stories about players claiming to be in the best shape of their lives at the start of every new season.

But Smith’s mental and physical transformation appears as dramatic as it was imperative, especially after Alderson told him flatly during last October’s exit meeting that he wasn’t guaranteed a starting job after slashing just .198/.262/.395 with nine homers over 167 at-bats during his late-season call-up to the Mets.

The 35-year-old Gonzalez, a five-time All-Star who missed most of last season with the Dodgers with back issues, was signed for the major-league minimum ($545,000) in January after he was released by Atlanta.

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“I wasn’t surprised,” Smith says. “I went up and played in the big leagues for a month and a half, and I didn’t play the way I would like. That’s just the bottom line and the truth of it…For them to go out and (sign Gonzalez) and try to help me along with my development, you can’t do anything but appreciate that and thank them, because whatever happens, I know I can definitely learn a lot from A-Gon.”

Growing up in Southern California, Smith watched plenty of Gonzalez, who played five seasons for the Padres and the last five-plus in Los Angeles.

“He’s been one of the best first basemen from my generation growing up. I used to watch him every night, growing up in L.A. So I’m a big A-Gon fan,” Smith said. “He rehabbed against us last year in Triple-A and we talked at first base and I told him then that I was a big fan of his and pretty much thanked him for what he did in L.A. over his career.

“I definitely think it’s going to be an exciting spring training, a new clubhouse dynamic, just a new everything, a fresh start for everybody. So I’m pretty excited what I can learn from him and from everybody.”

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It admittedly took “way too long” for Smith to finally learn how to alter his eating habits and maintain his fitness to maximize his baseball career. An overhauled diet and intense workouts all winter back in California — and for about a month in Arizona at the Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy and Performance — led the Mets’ 2013 first-round draft pick to arrive in Florida earlier this month “probably even lighter” than his official 225-pound listing.

“I’m telling people 225, but I’ve weighed myself a couple of times since I’ve been here and it’s lower than that,” Smith said. “I want to play around this weight. I just feel more like an athlete. Every time I came into spring training I’ve always felt like a good baseball player. But this is the first year I’ve felt like a good athlete.

“This is the first time I feel agile, and I’m really excited about that. I just want to go out there and see what I can do.”

What he won’t do, what he can’t do, is go back to the poor eating habits he fell back into last year at Triple-A, even if Gonzalez wins the starting job in camp and Smith winds up back at Las Vegas to open the season.

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Dominic Smith's offseason weight loss has the Mets' first baseman feeling better than ever.

Dominic Smith’s offseason weight loss has the Mets’ first baseman feeling better than ever.

(Peter Botte / New York Daily News)

“You can still eat some things sometimes, in small quantities, to treat yourself, as long as you don’t get into the habit of doing it all the time,” Smith said. “I don’t miss too many foods. It’s funny, with my diet, when I do eat bad foods now, it’s just nasty. You don’t really crave them anymore. It just leaves a bad taste. You start to realize how salty and greasy some foods are and you just feel bloated. It makes you want to eat clean even more, period. So I definitely did learn.

“I was never like a sweets guy. I didn’t really eat candy or ice cream or cakes. I was more of a cheesy, greasy eater. I loved cheeseburgers and Mexican food and pizza. Those were my favorites after a game. I was a big fan of all of that. It was hard in the beginning, but I’ve learned a lot from my time in the big leagues until now and through the offseason, so for 2018, I’m excited and ready to show what I can do.”

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