NEW YORK -- One of the first things Travis d'Arnaud did upon learning he would play the infield on Wednesday was text David Wright, the Mets' longtime third baseman. d'Arnaud requested permission to use Wright's glove. A few beats later, the injured Wright texted back.
"Use it well," he wrote. "Dive for everything."
Ultimately, d'Arnaud faced no defensive challenges in the Mets' 5-3 loss to the Yankees at Citi Field, thanks in part to manager Terry Collins' manic plan to flop him and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera based on who was hitting. With right-handers at the plate, d'Arnaud manned second base, making him less susceptible to balls pulled down the line. With left-handers batting, he shifted back to third.
Given those constraints, the ball did not find d'Arnaud until the ninth inning, when Todd Frazier hit a routine popup to second base.
"I thought it was really smart on Terry's part," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "d'Arnaud has never played the infield. I think they were trying to give him the least amount of chances as possible. He got one and he made it, but I thought it was really pretty brilliant."
It was, Collins admitted afterward, not something he came up with on the spot. As an infielder himself for the Pacific Coast League's Albuquerque Dukes in 1976, Collins said he switched back and forth between second and third to accommodate a fielder playing out of position.
A lifetime catcher, d'Arnaud was likewise beyond his comfort zone when the Mets asked him to play at third base Wednesday, learning roughly two hours before the game that both Jose Reyes and Wilmer Flores were suffering from rib-cage strains. Not since last spring, when he logged an inning at first base, had d'Arnaud made a professional appearance in the infield. Though he takes ground balls from time to time, d'Arnaud had never played there in a Major League game.
"I was fired up," he said. "Doing whatever I can to help the team win, whatever they feel was necessary. It was fun. I wish we would have won, though."
All told, d'Arnaud and Cabrera switched positions 22 times, resulting in a box score smeared with ink. The official scoring read: 3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B-2B-3B, like some overcaffeinated Abbott and Costello skit.
"Fortunately, it worked out for us," Collins said. "That was all we had to work with today."
Once, Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner attempted to push a bunt down the third-base line, but catcher Rene Rivera snared it before it reached d'Arnaud's range. Otherwise, d'Arnaud spent most of his night miming plays in midair, while Cabrera recorded five putouts between the two positions.
"I wanted to make a diving play," d'Arnaud said. "I wanted to make a diving play down the line or rob someone of a base hit, like people do to me."
Though the Mets won't know the statuses of Reyes and Flores until Thursday morning, they don't expect to face this sort of situation again. Infielders Gavin Cecchini (Mets' No. 9 prospect) and Matt Reynolds were traveling Wednesday from Triple-A Las Vegas, offering the Mets a defensive insurance policy. When those two arrive, d'Arnaud will move back behind the plate, returning the glove to Wright's locker.
But he won't soon forget his cameo. In the aftermath of Wednesday's game, d'Arnaud donned a devilish grin, saying he intended to message his brother, Chase, a full-time infielder in the Padres' system.
"My fielding percentage in the infield has got to be better than his -- 1-for-1," d'Arnaud quipped. "So I'll be sure to talk to him."