Baltimore added some depth for spring training, signing right-hander Pat Neshek and catcher Ronny Paulino to minor-league deals with camp invites.
Neshek was an excellent setup man for the Twins in 2006 and 2007, but underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in mid-2008 and hasn’t been the same since. He threw 25 innings for the Padres last season and had a decent-looking 4.01 ERA, but that came with more walks (22) than strikeouts (20) and the side-armer struggled to crack 90 miles per hour. He does, however, remain an elite tweeter.
Paulino was non-tendered by the Mets after hitting just .268 with a .312 on-base percentage and .351 slugging percentage in 248 plate appearances last season and seems unlikely to unseat Taylor Teagarden as starting catcher Matt Wieters’ backup. He’s cracked a .700 OPS just once in the past four seasons.
There’s no doubt that the last three years have put David Wright through the ringer. The Mets third baseman missed the bulk of his 2015 season with spinal stenosis and made it through a month of games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck. In 2017, a bout of shoulder impingement, rotator cuff surgery and a laminotomy procedure on his lower back kept him off the field for all 162 games.
Despite the continual setbacks, Wright told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, he doesn’t believe retirement is in the cards for him this year. “When the end comes, the end comes,” he said Friday. “Hopefully, I’ve got a little more left. But I guess that’s to be determined.”
The 35-year-old last appeared for High-A St. Lucie in 2017, powering through three games with one hit and five strikeouts in 10 plate appearances. His career has advanced in fits and starts since 2015, but you don’t have to do too much digging to find his last great performance with the Mets. Wright earned his seventh career All-Star berth in 2013, slashing .307/.390/.514 with 18 home runs and a terrific 6.0 fWAR in 492 PA. While he isn’t expected to mash at those levels in the near future, if ever again, the Mets believe the veteran third baseman might still have something left in the tank as he tries to extend a 13-year run in the majors.
Per DiComo, the only thing standing in his way is a clean bill of health — not just for the upcoming season, but for the years to come. Wright said he wouldn’t risk returning to the field if it came with long-term implications for his quality of life.
The surgeries are obviously serious stuff, but it just kind of plays with your mind mentally, where you don’t know how your body’s going to hold up,” Wright said. “You don’t know how you’re going to feel a month from now. You don’t know how you’re going to feel a couple weeks from now. You’re hoping that it continues to get better, but you just don’t know.
Given the uncertainty that surrounds his return to the game, it’s a prudent outlook to have.