Healthy d'Arnaud in new situation with Mets

Catcher, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2018, has no guaranteed amount of playing time

February 27th, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Sitting in a hospital room in Manhattan last April, listened as Mets physician Dr. David Altchek told him he would require Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. For several moments, d’Arnaud said nothing, absorbing the news in stunned silence.

“The doctor’s standing there like -- obviously he’s not going to make me say something,” d’Arnaud recalled. “But I was like, ‘God, what is going on?’”

Three days earlier, d’Arnaud had played a 12-inning game in Washington. He was the Mets’ starting catcher, three years removed from a strong pennant chase, and still in his prime at age 29. Within days of the diagnosis, d’Arnaud accepted the inevitable, undergoing surgery and missing the rest of the season.

Now, d'Arnaud is fully recovered, back in Mets camp in a different situation entirely. Over the offseason, the Mets signed Wilson Ramos to be their starting catcher and Devin Mesoraco to insure against d’Arnaud’s health. Even if d’Arnaud can stay on the field for what would be the first full season of his career, no guarantees exist as to the amount of playing time he will receive.

“It’s not frustrating at all,” d’Arnaud said. “It is what it is. I’m just going to keep my head high and keep trying to play the game the way I was taught to.”

For d’Arnaud, that means showcasing the offensive skills that made him a first-round Draft pick in 2007, and that he most prominently displayed with three home runs in his first nine career postseason games in 2015. That is, assuming he has the chance. Long an injury-prone player, d’Arnaud has sustained numerous muscle strains, ligament sprains and broken bones over the years, many of them dampening his overall output.

d'Arnaud always returned to the Mets in a starting role, but the formula changed this offseason, when the Mets signed Ramos to push d’Arnaud into a backup job (and even that, according to manager Mickey Callaway, is no guarantee with Mesoraco lurking). If Ramos is healthy -- not an insignificant if, but an if nonetheless -- it will severely limit d’Arnaud’s chances behind the plate. Now a veteran, he is trying to view that as a positive, affording him extra rest as he works his way back from his operation.

“I think he looks at it like that -- not that he’s the backup, but that he’s going to be able to start quite a few games as well,” Callaway said.

For now, d’Arnaud is focused simply on starting for the first time this spring. The Mets have ramped him up slowly in Florida, shepherding him through a battery of throwing drills before clearing him to play in games. While the team hasn’t revealed a date for his debut quite yet, d’Arnaud indicated it could be mere days away, now that he has cleared the bulk of those hurdles.

“Everything feels good,” said d’Arnaud, whose wife gave birth to the couple’s first child this winter. “Defensively, good. Offensively, good. I’m getting close to being in games and I’m getting excited, man. I’m excited."