Per tradition, Wright drove to spring training with three friends from Virginia, and they asked whether he was worth drafting for their fantasy teams. "I believe I am," he said. There is pressure on Manuel and Minaya to keep their jobs this season but also on Wright to return his team to the pennant race and himself to the MVP conversation. He will have Reyes back ahead of him in the order and newly signed leftfielder Jason Bay in the middle. (Beltran will miss at least the first month because he is still rehabbing from knee surgery.)
Twelve days before pitchers and catchers were due to report, Wright pulled into the Mets' spring complex. After more than a week of workouts, Wright ran into Manuel on a golf course, and the manager asked how he was feeling. "Ready," Wright said. The next day Wright took batting practice on Field 7, which has the same dimensions as Citi Field. Manuel stood on one side of the cage. Chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon stood on the other. Wright hit a line drive off the centerfield fence, which is still 16 feet high even though the wall at Citi was cut down to eight this winter. "That's a homer this year, right, Jeff?" Wright said with a smile. Then, as if to remove any doubt, he turned his hips, threw his hands and yanked a deep fly over the leftfield fence. "Get him ready for Josh Johnson," Manuel howled.
Opening Day against the Marlins, with Johnson on the mound, is still five weeks away. That's five more weeks to make fun of the Mets before they offer their rebuttal. "There's only one thing we can do to make it stop," Wright said. "Win."