PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A group that Noah Syndergaard calls "The Breakfast Club" meets every morning at one end of the Mets' Spring Training clubhouse, near Syndergaard's locker. Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are usually there eating, as is Jay Bruce. But perhaps none of the veterans who lug over folding chairs command as much respect as David Wright, whose distinctive laugh was missing from that end of the clubhouse on Tuesday morning.
Wright left camp this week for an examination by Los Angeles-based specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, who concluded that the back and shoulder issues derailing the third baseman's comeback attempt have not dissipated. Wright will refrain from all baseball activities for at least another eight weeks, extending his absence from the Majors to more than two years.
"That's very sad news for Mets fans and for us, too," said Jose Reyes, Wright's teammate for 10 of the past 14 seasons. "We want to see David on the field. To see him going through the last few years, seeing him every day putting the work he put in to try to get ready to be on the field, and we don't see any good news? It's just bad. We feel bad for the guy."
Wright last appeared in the Majors on May 27, 2016, roughly a year after doctors diagnosed him with spinal stenosis, a degenerative back condition. Wright ultimately underwent season-ending neck surgery, returning the following spring with plans to start at third base. This time, it was a shoulder injury that derailed Wright, resulting in a second surgery. He recovered from that well enough to appear in three Minor League rehab games in August, before the Mets shut him down with continued shoulder pain.
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In October, Wright underwent his third operation in 18 months -- a laminotomy to remove bone spurs, a ligament and a herniated disk from his lower back.
Wright told reporters on Wednesday that he will attend the Mets' Opening Day game against the Cardinals at Citi Field on March 29 before continuing his surgery rehabilitation in New York.
"Commendable," was how Mets manager Mickey Callaway described Wright's tribulations. "It's a tough road. It's been a long time for him. He wants to be out there so bad for the team and for the Mets and for the fans. It's tough. I think we all feel for him."
A seven-time All-Star and the Mets' captain since 2013, Wright still has three years and $47 million remaining on his contract, of which an insurance company is paying 75 percent. Unless Wright returns to active duty, the Mets will continue reclaiming three-quarters of his salary, though they factor Wright's full salary into their annual player payrolls.
Wright was productive in the 75 games he played from 2015-16, batting .260 with 12 home runs and an .801 OPS following his spinal stenosis diagnosis. But he is now 35, and he will be more than two years removed from his most recent Major League experience by the time he can make it back to the field.
Still, Wright has insisted that he wants to keep trying to play, as long as doctors assure him he can do no long-term harm to his body. He will speak publicly about his latest setback on Wednesday morning.
"It's definitely tough watching, but it's also impressive just being able to see the amount of positivity and just his overall outlook on things," Syndergaard said. "He continues to come at it each and every day with a smile."