Injury puts Wright's Classic status in doubt
Team USA third baseman, experiencing rib-cage soreness, being examined in New York
MIAMI -- Captain America may be back to just Mr. Met.
Team USA third baseman David Wright was scratched from the starting lineup with soreness in the left-side rib cage toward the back on Thursday night just before the start of a key game in the World Baseball Classic that the U.S. wound up losing, 3-1, to the Dominican Republic at Marlins Park.
He traveled to New York on Friday to be examined and his availability for the remainder of the tournament is doubtful, Team USA manager Joe Torre said.
Torre added that Wright definitely won't play in Friday night's elimination game here against Puerto Rico and he doesn't expect to see him if the team moves on to the semifinals in San Francisco on Sunday and Monday.
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"I'm really not counting on it," Torre said after the game. "Whatever he has is going to take more than a few days, I would think. Hopefully, that's all it is. The WBC is important, but it certainly isn't more important than making sure he's fine."
By rules of the Classic, the U.S. can't replace Wright in this round, but it can do so if it advances to AT&T Park.
Torre said that the Mets made an inquiry about Wright's condition and that he decided to remove him from the lineup after consultations with the U.S. trainers.
"Every time I go into the trainer's room, you end up on an injury report," Wright said outside the U.S. clubhouse as the game began. "The Mets see that. They decided, along with USA Baseball and Joe Torre, that it would be best that they pull me from the lineup today."
Wright was replaced by Willie Bloomquist, who started at third and batted ninth. Bloomquist made a throwing error and was 0-for-2 before being replaced by pinch-hitter Shane Victorino as the U.S. managed just six hits, all of them singles, against five Dominican pitchers.
Wright said he began feeling the nagging injury sometime after he reported to the U.S. camp in Scottsdale, Ariz., on March 10, but played through it without incident. He received a call on Thursday from Mets head trainer Ray Ramirez, who recommended that Wright be pulled from the lineup.
"It was something I was able to manage," Wright said. "Showing up on an injury report a number of different times is when it set off some red flags in St. Lucie. I don't feel it much when I play. It's more just lounging around. I've been having a hard time sleeping, because you get it caught in a certain position. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. It's more so when I'm not doing anything. When I'm sitting around, it barks and bothers me. But then once I get it heated up and get it going, I feel pretty good."
Thus far in the tournament, Wright is 7-for-16 (.438) with a game-winning grand slam, two doubles, 10 RBIs, four runs scored and 12 total bases, earning him the nickname "Captain America." The U.S had won three games in a row after losing its opener to Mexico. Wright had five RBIs, including a bases-clearing double on Tuesday night in a 7-1 U.S. victory over Puerto Rico that placed the Americans one win from advancing to the semifinals on Sunday or Monday at AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Wright took batting practice before Thursday's game and seemed to be in fine physical and mental shape. The announcement came just before the U.S. took the field for the start of the game and Wright was still wearing his baseball shoes as he talked to the media.
"Obviously, it's been fine to play with," he said. "Again, I understand the precaution that is being taken here. I'm obviously disappointed. I'm upset that I can't play. But I completely understand. I had a long talk with Joe Torre about it. I told him that I'd like to play. I'd like to try to play. Ultimately, it was taken out of my hands by the Mets and Team USA. It's completely understandable."
Though Wright said he hopes he's not done for the tournament, he just signed a $138 million, eight-year contract extension with the Mets and he knows that's his prime obligation.
"I wouldn't do anything to jeopardize [anything]. I owe it to the Mets to listen to them and to be ready for Opening Day," he said, referring to the April 1 game against the Padres at Citi Field. "That's extremely important to me. That's something I obviously don't want to jeopardize."
This is the third injury Team USA has sustained. Even before the start of the tournament, the Americans lost Indians closer Chris Perez with a sore right shoulder and replaced him with Arizona reliever David Hernandez. Before the first exhibition game against the White Sox on March 12 at Camelback Ranch, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira strained a tendon in his right wrist hitting with a weighted bat off a tee and was replaced by Eric Hosmer of the Royals.
Wright, though, said the injury wouldn't dampen his enthusiasm for playing in the Classic. This is his second tournament and between 2009 and this year he has 15 RBIs and has won two games with homers.
"This has been one of the best times, obviously, I've had playing baseball," Wright said. "This is a tournament that I've said all along that I love participating in. I can only hope that I haven't played my last game for Team USA. This is a wonderful tournament. By no means does this injury have anything to do with the format of this tournament, or playing in this tournament. This is one of those freak things where I woke up one day, and I was a little sore. We hadn't even started playing any games when I first felt this thing. It's one of those freak things."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.