After more than two years of injuries, three surgeries and a prolonged rehabilitation, David Wright, the Mets’ captain and longest-tenured player, plans to retire after one last game on Sept. 29.
Fighting back tears during a news conference on Thursday, Wright said that psychologically he is ready to play but his body is not.
“Physically, the way I feel right now and everything the doctors have told me, there’s not going to be any improvement,” he said, adding that he could not envision playing full time again.
Wright will come off the disabled list and start at third base against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 29, the penultimate game of the season, said Jeff Wilpon, a member of the family that owns the team and its chief operating officer.
Wright has not played in a major league game since May 27, 2016. In the more than two years since he was sidelined, he has had surgeries on his shoulder, neck and back, in addition to dealing with an existing chronic back condition called spinal stenosis.
“Those three combined, it’s debilitating to play baseball,” he said.
His return to the field no doubt will be a rousing and poignant moment in a lost season for the Mets (66-78). Wright was drafted by the Mets in 2001, played in 13 major league seasons for them, signed two contract extensions to stay, made seven All-Star Games and sits atop many franchise leaderboards.
When Wright suffered a setback with his shoulder in spring training, many — including Wright himself — wondered if he could ever make it back.
Insurance payments added a complicating dynamic to Wright’s return; if he was activated, the Mets stood to pay out millions to Wright that insurance was covering while he was on the disabled list. As Wright neared a return, Mets officials, despite a reputation for belt-tightening, insisted they were only worried about his health.
On Thursday, Wilpon said the insurance money was not a factor in the decision to activate him.
As Wright improved and progressed in his rehabilitation this summer, he grew more confident that he would be able to play this season. He began a minor league rehabilitation assignment in mid-August.
Wright ran out of time (his 20-day assignment ended just before the minor league season ended) and he did not play well enough, in terms of quantity and quality, in the Mets’ eyes.
But he took part in two simulated games, essentially practice against his own teammates, over the past week — the hurdles the Mets requested Wright clear before figuring out his return. Wright’s timing at the plate still looked rusty, perhaps a combination of physical deterioration, age and so much time away, but he will get at least one more chance to test it against major league pitching.