TORONTO -- No Rays player has been swinging a hotter bat in July than Travis d'Arnaud. Released by the Mets earlier this season, subsequently picked up by the Dodgers and then traded to Tampa Bay on May 9, the 30-year-old catcher has been everything the Rays were hoping for and
TORONTO -- No Rays player has been swinging a hotter bat in July than Travis d'Arnaud. Released by the Mets earlier this season, subsequently picked up by the Dodgers and then traded to Tampa Bay on May 9, the 30-year-old catcher has been everything the Rays were hoping for and more.
Ahead of Friday’s series-opening 3-1 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, d’Arnaud was hitting .321/.419/.717 with six home runs, three doubles and 16 RBIs over 15 games in July. The backstop added a two-run single to his totals in the victory, giving him nine RBIs in his past five games and 14 over his past nine.
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“I don’t know where we’d be [without him],” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “He just picks us up it seems like every night. Every other night he’s coming up with a big hit, and he’s doing it with guys on base, which we’ve talked about has not been our strength.
“He seems to have a knack for it and feel comfortable in the box, and now we’re hoping that permeates through the rest of the lineup a little bit, and guys can feed off that and come up with some big hits.”
With his third team this season and the fifth organization of his 13-year professional career, d’Arnaud has learned how to make the most of being the “new guy” in the clubhouse. He has certainly enjoyed the 47 games he has gotten into for Tampa Bay this year.
“Here, I was welcomed with open arms,” d’Arnaud said. “So it was actually pretty easy coming over here. A lot of other organizations, it was just meeting new people. I was able to play against a lot of them, so I had a familiarity with other players, but meeting new people is the best way [to embrace being the new guy].”
d’Arnaud has enjoyed each opportunity he has had to be a fresh face, and the former Blue Jays prospect has done his best to take as much as he can from all the players he has been around. He has been getting better from it along the way.
“Being a student of the game, you get to learn different styles of play, styles of preparation, styles of basically everything,” he said. “Especially in this sport, there are so many different ways to do it right, especially how things are explained and how things are done. But it’s cool to see and learn all different aspects of this game. And to be able to meet new people I always enjoy as well.”
In his brief time with Tampa Bay, the California native has had an education in getting the game back to the way it once was, which has had a significant effect on the field.
“[I’ve learned] to have fun,” he said. “It’s something you take for granted, and it’s kind of rejuvenated me a little bit.
“It makes a huge difference not only at the plate, but behind the plate as well. It’s helped tremendously. I think it helps with everyone, personally. It eases your mind a lot, not so much tense body language, everything just naturally happens instead of forcing things. It’s been working out.”
Before d’Arnaud landed the decisive blow in the fifth inning, Austin Meadows opened the scoring when he tripled in Tommy Pham in the third frame. It was the 24-year-old outfielder’s sixth three-base hit of the season and only the 15th triple hit at Rogers Centre this year.
d’Arnaud was also behind the dish for the four Tampa Bay hurlers who combined to hold Toronto to one run on four hits, an encouraging display for the squad that lost reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell to injury.
After Diego Castillo opened the matchup with a perfect frame, Ryan Yarbrough finished 5 1/3 innings as the night’s main event. Chaz Roe followed with five outs, before Colin Poche recorded the final three and earned his first big league save.
“They’re going to have to [step up],” Cash said of his hurlers. “They recognize that -- they don’t need to be told that -- but it’s very encouraging. We’re going to need that group, who have been really good all season long -- starter, reliever, whatever, bulk guy, opener.
“They’ve been great, but they’re going to have to be that much better now going forward with Blake on the shelf for a little while.”
Alexis Brudnicki is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.