Watching Wright in Classic, Mets like what they see
As lone team representative in tourney, 'Captain America' dominating competition
VIERA, Fla. -- For once, Dave Hudgens tried to be a fan. The Mets' hitting coach drove to a local sports bar on Tuesday to catch the World Baseball Classic because, in his words, David Wright "is a fun guy to watch."
But as Wright delivered yet another strong performance in Team USA's 7-1 victory over Puerto Rico, Hudgens could not help but check the position of his hands, the movement in his stance, his pitch selection at the plate.
"You end up watching for all the things he wants to work on," Hudgens said.
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"And he looks good."
When Wright returns from Classic play later this month, in other words, Hudgens does not anticipate dispensing much advice. Wright already appears primed for the regular season, batting .438 with one home run and a 1.276 OPS over his first four Classic games. His 10 RBIs are tied for the most by an individual player in a single Classic, with at least two games still scheduled for Team USA.
Back in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Wright's teammates have taken note.
"Ten RBIs already?" said Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada, who would have played for Panama had his country qualified for the Classic. "Oh my God, he's doing good."
It helps, of course, that Wright thrice came to the plate on Tuesday with the bases loaded and less than one out, prime opportunities to drive in runs. Plating the first of them on a groundout in the third inning, Wright singled home another run in the fifth and broke the game open with a bases-clearing double in the eighth.
Afterward, he credited much of his success to Team USA's "ridiculous" lineup, sandwiching him between left-handed hitters Joe Mauer and Eric Hosmer. It's a comfortable perch for Wright, who figures to slot between lefties Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis during the regular season.
His full-time teammates hope only that the results look similar.
"He's giving good at-bats," Hudgens said. "He's laid off some tough pitches. He's taken some walks. He's quiet at the plate. I think he's going to get off to a good start this season."
When Hudgens and the rest of the Mets arrived in their spring clubhouse Wednesday morning, a bank of flat-screen televisions was broadcasting Classic highlights on a constant loop. Several players who had not seen Tuesday's game stopped to watch Wright's at-bats, while some of those who had seen it stopped to view the replay.
Murphy was following along on his computer the previous night, but fell asleep before Wright's final at-bat. When he awoke to find his teammate had finished 2-for-5 with five RBIs, the second baseman sought out a television to see what happened.
"It's a very neat experience to be able to be on this side of it, being able to text back and forth with him a little bit," said Murphy, whose conversations with Wright often include updates about the state of the Mets. "He's always concerned about his teammates. I think that's just the way he ticks."
Unofficially, it's a part of Wright's job description. The third baseman has become synonymous with his franchise, potentially gaining an embroidered "C" on his jersey once he returns from Classic play. With that in mind, and with Wright's national pride so apparent, television announcers have taken to calling him "Captain America" during broadcasts.
Such success on a world stage is not entirely new. During the last World Baseball Classic in 2009, Wright delivered a walk-off hit against Puerto Rico that he still counts among his all-time career highlights.
But Wright was one of 11 Mets competing in the Classic that year, sharing the spotlight with stars such as Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. This year he is the only Mets Major Leaguer in the tournament, magnetizing his teammates' curiosity.
"It's really, really fun for us to be able to watch him not only represent his country, but it also kind of feels like he's representing the New York Mets right now," Murphy said. "He's doing a real good job of it."
Even those players who have not seen Team USA's games have begun firing off tweets or regularly checking box scores. As the Classic progresses, an increasing number of Mets are actively rooting for him.
They understand that Wright's hot start in March could ultimately bear fruit for them come April.
Said Murphy: "We'll be excited to get him back."