Time for Travis d’Arnaud to Step Up For Mets

By Rich Mancuso/Sports Editor

Travis d’Arnaud is on watch and Sandy Alderson will take notice because if the Mets catcher does not step up there will be a change.  The expectations come every spring for the 28-year old catcher and with Mark Wieters inked with the Nationals that sent a message. It’s time for Travis to step up or a change will be made.

There are no hesitations as to the silent and necessary moves that Alderson will pull prior to the season opener or the July trading deadline. And there will be no hesitations this year because the Mets can’t expect a veteran backup, Rene Rivera to catch a bulk of the games and assuming the injury prone  d’Arnaud remains healthy there is more reason for him to step up.

If not, Alderson will work the phones and make the necessary moves as the Mets are expected to be a viable contender to be a part  of October baseball, assuming of course that the pitching stays healthy and there are no major setbacks.

So, as Mets fans question, why did Alderson stay still and not make a pitch for Wieters who signed a two-year $21 million contract with the Nationals? It is simple to understand that the Mets could have spent even though they put their assets once again into re-signing Yoenis Cespedes.

It is also the confidence of Alderson and the Mets hierarchy with  expectations that  d’Arnaud will have a year that was expected, three years after his acquisition from Toronto as a part of the trade that shipped out R.A. Dickey and delivered Noah Syndergaard.

But with Travis, who has has missed a bulk of games the past two years, you come to learn there is the unexpected. He is either stepping up or down in Port St. Lucie nursing his way back up to Citi Field.  

And with the availability to find a viable option a difficult option it becomes a necessity that Travis d’Arnaud stays off the disabled list and becomes the right option for the Mets. More so, with the expected bounce back years on the mound from Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zach Wheeler, there is that need for the Mets to have d’Arnaud at his best behind the plate.

There is the tendency to believe that d’Arnaud will have this bounce back year. There is always that optimism in February and March and, he is slated to have a third Opening Day start. The key question is about the health and will d’Arnaud be positioned to play 120 games?  

He drove in 15 runs in 276 at bats last season.  Alderson failed with attempts to acquire Jonathan Lucroy from the Brewers at the trading deadline last season and Rivera became the viable backup,  a position that saw the lowest numbers coming from the Mets lineup.

So this is the test and d’Arnaud the first Mets catcher to have double-digit home runs in back-to-back seasons since Mike Piazza, has shown the ability to be productive. He was a key player in the Dickey trade and of course Syndergaard became the prize in a crack Jack box.

However time is of the essence, and in this case it pertains to Travis d’Arnaud who is obviously aware that it is time to step up. And in defense of one injury after another, let’s face the facts that no catcher is expected to play a full 162-game season and be invincible from an injury or two.

And that pitching staff seems to be comfortable with d’Arnaud behind the plate. In the clubhouse, a sanctuary for the players, they will not reveal any secrets about their starting catcher. Syndergaard and company are comfortable, but is is known that Rivera is the backup that handles the position better and has a better ratio of throwing out a runner trying to take the extra base.

Yes, the Mets GM will be watching this one carefully. And this time, assuming d’Arnaud stays off the DL, he is expected to throw well, prevent the extra base and of course become that productive hitter that has been shown.  

But the GM is always and quietly on the phone looking for options. Six weeks from today, Travis d’Arnaud will be in the starting lineup for manager Terry Collins. Three months later during the trading deadline will that still be the situation for the Mets?

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