The New York Mets' worst World Baseball Classic fears were realized when third baseman David Wright withdrew from Team USA with what was later diagnosed as a left intercostal strain.
Wright missed the U.S. squad's last two World Baseball Classic games, March 14-15, and he had yet to resume baseball activities through March 19. However, he reported back to Mets camp saying he would be healthy for Opening Day.
"He reassured me he'll be ready," manager Terry Collins said. "I'm not doubting him, but we certainly have to have a contingency plan in case he's not."
Plan B is to have Justin Turner start at third base -- provided Turner, who sprained his ankle in a Grapefruit League game over St. Patrick's Day weekend, is healthy himself.
The health problems are hardly what the Mets envisioned when they reported to camp last month. There is a chance that Wright, second baseman Daniel Murphy, starting pitcher Johan Santana and closer Frank Francisco all will begin the season on the disabled list, crippling the team. The quartet will make over $45 million combined this season, representing more than half of the Mets' Opening Day payroll.
The Mets were already playing at a disadvantage, trying to compete in the stacked NL East with a team greatly resembling the one that finished in fourth place last season. The most significant difference is that New York no longer has R.A. Dickey, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.
To compete, the Mets know, they need Wright more than anyone, so they will pay close attention to his rehab over the final two weeks of spring training. Wright said that because he accumulated more than two dozen at-bats in Grapefruit League and WBC play prior to his injury, he should not need many more before the season begins.
"Obviously, the goal of mine is to be ready by Opening Day, but first things first, and that's to get the pain out of my side," Wright said. "I've played plenty of games this year and had plenty of at-bats. Now the biggest thing is I don't want this to linger throughout the year. I've got to be able to knock this out."