WASHINGTON -- David Wright was taking batting practice in a cage beneath the brand new Nationals Park. After 30 minutes of swings and direction from hitting coach Howard Johnson, Wright left the cage and threw a football with anyone he could get to play catch with him. He threw one spiral after another from about 40 feet away. Afterward, the Mets third baseman took the time to talk about preparation, a fast start and free flights.
Holden Kushner: Your former general manager and a man you know very well, Jim Duquette, told me a story about your work ethic. In Class A ball while playing with Port St. Lucie, you were hitting over .350 on the road and under .200 at home because you were practicing too much when you didn't have to travel. Is it possible that your tremendous work ethic can work against you?
David Wright: Maybe a little. From a relatively young age, I was taught to try to outwork the competition, outwork the opponent and that's kind of stuck with me. But as you get older you realize the kind of workload you need to put on yourself over the course of a long season. It's quality, not quantity. Get your ground balls, get your swings, but the No. 1 priority is to make sure you're fresh for the game.
HK: Amazing that you are already in your fifth year in the majors. You've learned idiosyncrasies that have helped you become a more productive player. If you were to advise a rookie and let him know what to expect in his first four years, what would you tell him?
DW: Have fun with it because it really does fly by. Seems like yesterday I was getting the call to play in my first big league game. It's the same game that it is in the minor leagues. Just have to go out there and play your game. Sorry for the cliché, but the pitching mound is still 60-feet-6 inches away. Basepaths are still the same. The biggest thing is you have to do is become mentally stronger. It's a grind for 162. Facing the best of the best, you have to understand that there will be failures and there will be times when you have to make proper adjustments.
HK: You have gotten off to a fine start. Is there anything that feels different at the plate when you are locked in as opposed to when you are slumping?
DW: Well life's much better [smiles]. It's great to get off to a good start. Last year I had a horrible April. This year, getting off to this kind of a start is good. Teamwise, there's a way to go still. We're not playing the kind of baseball that we are capable of. We need to make some adjustments and hopefully get hot here.
HK: You mentioned the team isn't playing the kind of ball you're capable of playing. What's been lacking?
DW: I think a little bit of everything. Coming out of spring training we had too many ups and downs. We have too good of a team and too many veteran guys on this team to go into these streaks. We need to get healthy. Expecting Moises Alou back soon, hopefully we'll get a healthy Pedro and a healthy El Duque too. Bottom line is we have to be more consistent and just string together more W's.
HK: David, when I saw you in spring training, the collapse was still the hot story. How long did it take for you to put it in the past?
DW: I say after the last out of the World Series the 2007 season was behind me. I used that feeling this offseason as motivation, kind of fuel the fire in my offseason workouts. Although it's done and over with, I think we've all learned some very valuable lessons. Hopefully if we're in that same situation this season we can prevail.
HK: What's your valuable lesson?
DW: I got that experience down the stretch where every game means something. There was pressure. There was tension. In '06 we won the National League East going away so we didn't really experience that pressure in late September. Last year we experienced that. So this year if we're there we've been there before and we've done it. It's good to have that experience.
HK: What has Johan Santana he brought to this team and to this clubhouse?
DW: It's tough to say one team brings a team to a different level but I think he does that. He brings a lot of energy, solidifies the top of the rotation. It allows two 15-game winners to get bumped back in the rotation in Oliver Perez and John Maine. Santana's a true stopper.
HK: Your old buddy B.J. Upton says he whooped you on the basketball court. Is this true.
DW: Absolutely not. No way he whooped me. You gotta be kidding.
HK: His words.
DW: Not true.
HK: Delta named one of their planes the "David Wright Flight." Do you get to ride for free?
DW: Only if I want to go to Boston [smiles].
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.