Mets' Wright undergoes neck surgery

Procedure on herniated disk could end Mets third baseman's season

June 16th, 2016

NEW YORK -- In an "incredibly frustrating and disappointing" latest chapter to his injury-laden career, David Wright and the Mets announced Thursday that the third baseman has opted for surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Though the team did not disclose a timetable for Wright's return, there is a realistic chance his operation is season-ending.

"After trying every way to get back on the field, I've come to realize that it's best for me, my teammates and the organization to proceed with surgery at this time," Wright said in a statement. "My neck simply did not respond to any of the treatments of the past few weeks. While incredibly frustrating and disappointing, I am determined to make a full recovery and get back on the field as soon as I can to help the Mets win. I greatly appreciate the support of my teammates and our fans throughout the last few weeks."

Wright, 33, underwent the surgery Thursday in Marina Del Rey, Calif. Dr. Robert Watkins, the back specialist who coordinated Wright's rehab from spinal stenosis last summer, performed it. The decision to proceed with the operation was made after weeks of tests, rest and anti-inflammatory injections to alleviate pain and improve his mobility, the Mets said.

"His presence especially is something that we miss as a group," second baseman Neil Walker said. "Certainly, you feel for him. You see what he goes through to prepare himself and how hard he works. So to see him have to go through surgery is no fun. Our thoughts are with him today."

Herniated-disk surgery typically necessitates a three- to six-month recovery period, according to Dr. Andrew Hecht, chief of spine surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital and a consultant to the NFL's Jets and the NHL's Islanders. Hecht compared a spinal disk to jelly donut, and a herniation to pressure forcing the jelly out of it, pushing on a nerve.

"The good news here is that … the likelihood of returning to a full level of activity is extraordinarily high," Hecht said, adding that the cause of Wright's herniation is almost certainly unrelated to his stenosis condition. Wright's stenosis also should not affect his recovery.

Other athletes, including baseball players Prince Fielder and Bobby Parnell, have returned from similar surgeries, as has the NFL's Peyton Manning. But in each case, it took many months for a full recovery.

"He has had surgery before. He knows what do," Fielder said. "It's not career-ending. No surgery is planned to be that way. He should be fine."

If this ends Wright's season, he will have played in 37 games -- one fewer than last year, when his diagnosis of spinal stenosis triggered a three-month rehab process. Wright returned last August and played into the postseason, with hopes to appear in roughly three out of every four games this summer. But Wright's neck began bothering him late last month, and after attempting both oral anti-inflammatory medication and an injection, he landed on the disabled list June 3.

Overall this season, Wright hit .226 with seven home runs. The captain and seven-time All-Star is a career .296 hitter, and he's the Mets' all-time leader in hits, doubles, walks, runs and RBIs. He is under contract through 2020, with a guaranteed $67 million due after this season. If Wright misses the rest of this year, the Mets can recoup a portion of his salary through insurance. They used similar insurance money last year when Wright was hurt to pay for the addition of Yoenis Cespedes' salary.

This time around, however, the front office may not be so aggressive. In Wright's absence, Wilmer Flores has already been playing third base most days, batting .375 with seven RBIs in 12 games since Wright landed on the DL. The team has discussed alternative options, including moving Walker to third base and calling up second-base prospect Dilson Herrera. But for now, it is content to proceed with Flores. Even less likely is an external acquisition, such as Cuban free agent Yulieski Gurriel.

If actions like that do occur, they would take weeks to unfold. Thursday, the Mets -- who recorded a get-well video for Wright -- were still digesting the news that they would be without one of their most important players for a significant period of time.

"It's been very hard," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I saluted him last fall when he came back, and I watched every day what he had to go through. It's incredible. It just shows you his dedication to be as good as he can possibly be. … This guy's one of the best I've ever been around."