NEW YORK -- Even for a team accustomed to poring over injury reports, the most recent news to hit the Mets was jarring. Mets third baseman David Wright has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back and is almost certainly headed to the disabled list, the club announced Monday.
"I was shocked by it," manager Terry Collins said. "He is without a question the face of this team. His presence in that lineup is something we need."
An MRI taken Monday revealed what general manager Sandy Alderson called a "tentative diagnosis" of a stress fracture in Wright's lower back. The third baseman is awaiting a second opinion from a CT scan, at which point the Mets will decide whether to place him on the disabled list.
But even Wright indicated Monday afternoon that he will almost certainly be unavailable until June.
"I was being counted on to help this team win games," Wright said. "Now I'm not going to be able to do that for two weeks."
Originally injuring his back while diving to tag Astros outfielder Carlos Lee at third base in a game on April 19, Wright soon began receiving regular treatment while keeping the injury hidden from the general public for nearly three weeks. Word finally leaked out last week in Denver, and the third baseman sat out a game later that week, hitting a home run in his return to the lineup the following day.
But the injury lingered. Famous for stubbornly downplaying his aches and pains, Wright said he put off having an MRI for several weeks, before the Mets finally forced him to undergo testing Monday morning.
The results were hardly what he or the team expected.
"He's not the kind of guy that likes to come out of the lineup, much less goes on the disabled list," Alderson said. "I think David himself was surprised by it, and so were we, to a large extent."
Though Wright would not attribute his recent struggles to the injury, the five-time All-Star is batting just .226, with six home runs and 18 RBIs on the season. And while he had struggled even before colliding with Lee, hitting .250 prior to the injury, his slugging percentage has dropped dramatically over the past two weeks.
Collins believes much of that is a direct reflection of the back pain, which Wright described as "consistently there."
"I think the nagging injury of it all caused him to change some mechanical things," Collins said, noting that Wright's swing has lengthened in recent weeks. "But we had no reason to think that he couldn't play with it."
"By no means is this thing a copout or an excuse for what I've done so far," Wright said. "I've played through it, and when I take the field, I expect to perform at a certain level."
Even Monday, Wright described the injury as little more than discomfort. But the new diagnosis has forced him and the Mets to begin fearing further injury, a concern that should ultimately land Wright on the disabled list for the first time since suffering a concussion in August 2009.
There, Wright will join first baseman Ike Davis, whom the Mets placed on the DL last week with a sprained left ankle. Injuries to both corner infield positions may compound the personnel situation for Alderson, who nonetheless said he is comfortable with the team's internal options.
With both Wright and Davis sidelined, the team plans to recall Nick Evans from Triple-A Buffalo to provide insurance for Daniel Murphy at first base, a move that should become official on Tuesday. The club also recalled Ruben Tejada early Tuesday morning, with the intention of starting him regularly at second base and shifting Justin Turner to third.
In a makeshift lineup Monday, Murphy was slated at first base, with Turner at second and Willie Harris at third.
"You need guys to step up, whether it's bench players or guys from the Minor Leagues," Wright said. "This really tests some of the depth of our Minor Leagues, some of the depth of our bench."
Six weeks into the season, the Mets have already been tested mightily in that regard. Injuries to Johan Santana, Chris Young, Jenrry Mejia and Boof Bonser have consumed nearly all of the organization's starting pitching depth. Davis' ankle issue has thinned the infield. Earlier injuries to Jason Bay and Angel Pagan have affected the outfield.
But nothing looms so large as a setback for Wright, the team's clubhouse leader and most consistent offensive threat over the past eight years.
"Obviously we've had huge dents in the armor," Collins said. "This is a big dent."