NEW YORK -- Long before Citi Field filled up for Thursday night's game against the Cubs, and even before many of his teammates reported to work, David Wright emerged from the Mets' clubhouse for a light game of catch. As head athletic trainer Brian Chicklo and physical therapist John Zajac watched, Wright uncorked throws with intensity for the first time since last August -- "and that," Wright said, referring to last year, "didn't go so well."
Thursday went markedly better for Wright, who was throwing for the first time this year. Wright never progressed to this stage during Spring Training, still battling back and shoulder issues that have kept him out of Major League games since May 2016. He did briefly go on Minor League rehab assignment last summer, before renewed shoulder pain forced him to shut it down.
Ever since, Wright has been limited to physical therapy, while keeping in regular contact with team physician Dr. David Altchek and independent back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins. Those two concluded that Wright is finally healthy enough to attempt baseball activities -- the intensity and diversity of which he hopes to increase in the coming weeks.
"It felt good getting back out there," Wright said. "It's my first time putting on my cleats in a while, and putting on the uniform, so it certainly felt good to do that."
Wright, however, remains realistic about his situation. His last big league game more than two years in the past, Wright understands there is a chance he never makes it back to that stage. So he tries to focus more on the day-to-day aspects of his rehab -- the treatment, the physical therapy, the activities progression -- than on what might occur months down the line.
"I've been down this road enough to know that you never really know what tomorrow brings," Wright said. "It was nice to get out there today. It was nice to throw for a little bit. I think every day I'm going to try to start ramping it up more and more, and see how my shoulder and my back respond. It's Day 1 of baseball stuff. Hopefully, more days to come where things continue to go well."
If all goes well with his throwing program, Wright will advance to fielding ground balls in the coming weeks, then swinging a bat for the first time since last year and -- the final test -- running.
If at any point along the way, Wright feels pain in his back or shoulder, he will rest. Wright was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a degenerative back condition, in May 2015. He has appeared in just 67 games since that time, also undergoing neck, shoulder and back surgeries. The most recent of those occurred last October.
Still, Wright, who is under contract through 2020, believes there is at least a chance he can play again.
"I wouldn't be wasting my time going out there and playing a meaningless game of catch if I wasn't hoping that I could give it another go," Wright said. "It's way too early to start circling days. A small step, but I guess a step in the right direction."
• Noah Syndergaard said he expects to miss one or two starts with the strained finger ligament that landed him on the disabled list earlier this week.
"It's progressed quite a bit from the initial injury," said Syndergaard, who plans to rest through the weekend before advancing to a throwing program. Syndergaard last pitched May 25.
• Feeling "great" a day after doctors diagnosed him with a mild strain on his left middle finger, Steven Matz played catch on Thursday for the first time since suffering his injury. Matz is tentatively scheduled to throw a light bullpen session on Friday, and if all goes well, he could start in his regular rotation spot on Sunday against the Cubs.
• Yoenis Cespedes continues to progress from a strained right hip flexor, but he is not ready to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. Cespedes has been sidelined since May 14.
"I'm a little surprised that it has taken as long as it has," said general manager Sandy Alderson, who called the issue chronic. "I won't say that he's close. But I don't think he's that far away."