The length and direction of David Wright's road back from spinal stenosis remains unclear, even after he spoke optimistically about his return while meeting with reporters on Friday in Los Angeles. General manager Sandy Alderson remained cautious and said, "There hasn't been any significant change in his routine."
Wright has only played one full season since suffering a stress fracture in his back in 2011. He has played only eight games this season after landing on the disabled list on April 15 with a right hamstring strain, which some specialists believe could have been related to the prior stress fracture and eventual diagnosis of spinal stenosis.
The Mets hope Wright can return to the field without surgery, but such a procedure remains a possibility if the current treatment does not work. Dr. Robert Watkins, an orthopedic spinal surgeon in Marina del Rey, California, has been leading Wright's care. According to Alderson, Wright has received anti-inflammatory epidural injections in addition to physical therapy. "Surgery is a possibility, but I think surgery is something that needs to be avoided at all costs," said Alderson, "I think that going this route is the most prudent, it's the most likely to be successful. We just have to be patient with it, that's all."
Then comes the question of what are the odds of a comeback if surgery occurs. Red flags flew when Wright's spinal stenosis diagnosis was first announced because former Met Lenny Dykstra had the procedure in July 1996 while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies. He never played again and was placed on the voluntarily retired list in November 1998 even though the neurosurgeon who performed the procedure declared the operation a success.
Speaking on the possibility of surgery, Wright said:
"I have very little knowledge of it. I sat down for the consultation with the doctors, the first couple of meetings. I was made aware that there is a surgery for it. I was also made aware that Dr. Watkins was going to do everything in his power to make sure that I do not need that surgery, and that's really the only time we've talked about it."
Some doctors that have not examined Wright, have made some general comments. Orthopedic surgeon Stefan Prada of the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Florida said that a minimally invasive procedure "would definitely get him back for spring ball next year." Dr. Joseph Congeni, director of sports medicine at Akron Children's Hospital, is less optimistic and also does not see surgery as an option based on what has been made public of Wright's injury. "The long-term outlook of spinal stenosis is not good."