NEW YORK (AP) — Hanging on a hook in David Wright’s locker, above the baseball spikes and opposite the helmets of his favorite football teams, the New York Giants and Virginia Tech Hokies, was a blue and orange Mets cap and white jersey with pinstripes.
No. 5 as always, with his name across the back.
And for the first time in nearly 2½ years, Wright was ready to grant himself the privilege of putting it on.
“When I’m hurt, I never put my uniform on. I wear a hoodie or something like that,” he said. “So to put that thing on again means the world to me, and is something that you tend to take for granted.”
After countless hours of rehab during an arduous comeback, Wright was reinstated from the disabled list Tuesday and added to New York’s active roster for the first time since June 3, 2016. Following a long road back from several serious injuries, the 35-year-old team captain was eligible off the bench against NL East champion Atlanta.
“To say it’s a good feeling is an understatement. It’s been a long time coming and I can’t wait to put that jersey on tonight, for sure,” Wright said. “A lot of time, a lot of hard work.”
Wright didn’t play in a 7-3 loss, but he’s scheduled to start at third base in his farewell game Saturday night against Miami.
“I’m real nervous, I’ll tell you that. I’m real excited. Got the butterflies going. It’s going to be a weird, yet fulfilling feeling,” he said. “I want to put on as good a show as I possibly can — and at the same time soak it all in.”
Mets manager Mickey Callaway confirmed longtime teammate and friend Jose Reyes will start alongside Wright at shortstop on Saturday.
“I’m going to try to allow myself to get in the moment,” Wright said. “I’ll take it all in while I’m out there as much as I can.”
Assistant general manager John Ricco said it was unlikely Wright would play during the three-game series against the Braves because they’re trying to earn home-field advantage in the Division Series, and the Mets don’t want to compromise the integrity of the pennant race.
It’s possible Wright could pinch-hit in a lopsided game, though.
Heavy rain fell much of Tuesday, and the series opener began in front of a sparse crowd following a 32-minute delay.
Wright and Callaway have both expressed a desire to get the seven-time All-Star a plate appearance or two ahead of Saturday. So it seems Friday night against the last-place Marlins is most likely.
“I hope to go out there and do something that doesn’t embarrass me, but it’s going to be difficult, not having an at-bat for a while,” Wright said.
Wright hasn’t played in the majors since May 27, 2016, due to neck, back and shoulder injuries that required surgery. He homered in his last three games before going on the DL.
Last month, Wright batted .171 (7 for 41) with a double and two RBIs in 10 rehab games for Class A St. Lucie and two with Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets announced plans on Sept. 13 to activate Wright for the last homestand of the year, giving him an opportunity to accomplish his goal of returning to the majors — and a chance for him and adoring Mets fans to say goodbye.
“Honestly, I was hoping he’d be back as a full-time player,” Ricco said. “I was hoping for more than this, obviously.”
Unable to get healthy enough to resume his career in earnest, Wright said he expects this weekend to be his last big league appearance. Choking back tears earlier this month, he mentioned how important it was to him to have his two young daughters see him play, and several friends and family members will be in New York this week to cheer him.
“The support that I’ve received the last couple weeks has been indescribable,” Wright said. “The memories have been plentiful.”
Before injuries derailed his stellar career, Wright once appeared on track to compiling a Hall of Fame resume. Drafted by the Mets, he is the longest-tenured active player with one team in the majors.
Wright is perhaps the greatest position player in team history, too — the club’s career leader in hits (1,777), RBIs (970), runs (949), doubles (390), total bases (2,945), extra-base hits (658) and walks (761). His 242 home runs rank second to Darryl Strawberry’s 252, and he went deep at Citi Field in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series.
“As a young player … you think you can play forever,” Wright said. “I basically went without a scratch for the first eight, nine, 10 years, and things certainly caught up to me fast the last three years.”
Wright was reinstated from the 60-day disabled list Tuesday. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, the Mets placed right-hander Eric Hanhold on the 60-day DL with a strained left oblique muscle.
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