JUPITER, Fla. -- Well aware that Travis d'Arnaud was starting his first game behind the plate since Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals offered him a test on Thursday. In the first inning, Harrison Bader singled and took off for second on the next pitch. Two innings later, Bader reached first
JUPITER, Fla. -- Well aware that Travis d'Arnaud was starting his first game behind the plate since Tommy John surgery, the Cardinals offered him a test on Thursday. In the first inning, Harrison Bader singled and took off for second on the next pitch. Two innings later, Bader reached first base and again quickly dashed for second.
Although d’Arnaud did not throw out Bader on either occasion, the Mets came away pleased with their catcher’s performance in their 1-1 tie with the Cardinals.
“It’s good for him to start feeling what it feels like to throw in a game again when runners are running,” manager Mickey Callaway said, “and the throw means something.”
By Callaway’s count, d’Arnaud made seven “competitive” throws in the game -- one fewer than the maximum the team was going to allow. While this wasn’t d’Arnaud’s first time behind the plate this spring, it marked his first start and his most extensive action since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.
“I was excited going into today -- probably a little too antsy,” d’Arnaud said. “A lot of emotions were running. I just thought about the past year and everything. Finally able to start a game again, it felt good. I was glad to get tested a couple of times.”
To break camp in the Majors, d’Arnaud still must catch a full, nine-inning game as well as start consecutive games at catcher -- neither of which he considers an obstacle. General manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said d’Arnaud will be on the roster, as long as he is healthy, making it almost certain he’ll serve as starting catcher Wilson Ramos’ primary backup.
Logging 5 1/3 shutout innings on Thursday, Zack Wheeler lowered the Opening Day rotation’s ERA to 2.77 in Grapefruit League games. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Wheeler, Steven Matz and Jason Vargas have combined to strike out 57 batters and walk 16 in 55 1/3 innings.
“I don’t think Spring Training matters all that much, but you want to start trending in that direction as you get closer to the season,” Wheeler said. “Everybody’s looking good right now, so it’s definitely a plus.”
Wheeler, in particular, has thrived of late, throwing 9 1/3 shutout innings his last two starts, with seven strikeouts and no walks. His performance Thursday came against a lineup featuring several Cardinals regulars, including Yadier Molina, Jose Martinez and Bader.
“That’s a standard Zack Wheeler outing now,” Callaway said. “He understands who he can be, what he is and what he’s all about.”
The Mets offered their condolences to longtime clubhouse manager Tony Carullo, whose father, Cleto, recently passed away. The younger Carullo became the Mets’ visiting team batboy in 1969, was promoted to visiting clubhouse manager in 1975 and is entering his 51st season with the organization.
“On behalf of the Mets organization, we’re sad to hear about Tony Carullo’s dad passing away,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “We love Tony, we hope for the best and we send our condolences."
On the back fields
Outfielder Carlos Gomez, who completed a Minor League deal with the Mets on March 2, still has not appeared in a Grapefruit League game. The Mets are waiting for Gomez to clear up a visa issue before they can use him. In the interim, he is allowed to work out and play on the back fields. At this point, Gomez is not a realistic candidate to make the Opening Day roster.
Matz will make his fourth spring start when the Mets return to First Data Field for a 1:10 p.m. ET game Friday against the Nationals. Robinson Cano, who is in the midst of six consecutive games in the starting lineup, is slated to start at designated hitter.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.