Mets hope minor-leaguers make major difference

Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud, right, jokes with teammate

Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud, right, jokes with teammate right fielder Marlon Byrd before playing the San Diego Padres in a baseball game on Saturday in San Diego. (Aug. 17, 2013) (Credit: AP )

SAN DIEGO - The first wave arrived last year in the form of pitching phenom Matt Harvey.

This season, the tide continued to bring along more talent. Zack Wheeler joined the starting rotation. Wilmer Flores filled in for David Wright. And Saturday night, catcher Travis d'Arnaud entered the fray, the latest of the Mets' minor-leaguers to graduate.

If all goes according to plan, this group of players will form the nucleus of the Mets' next winning team. And for the first time in an actual big-league game, a cluster of them shared the same clubhouse.

"It's fun to watch," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who cut his teeth in player development. "My whole background is getting players to the big leagues and watching them be successful. But as we've seen lately, you love the effort, you love the enthusiasm, you love the hustle."

Wearing No. 15, d'Arnaud caught and hit sixth, wedged between fellow rookies Flores and centerfielder Juan Lagares. Sunday, when the Mets face the Padres in the series finale, d'Arnaud will be behind the plate to catch Harvey.

The critical moment certainly hasn't been lost among fans, who have distracted themselves from the franchise's big-league downturn by keeping tabs of the team's minor-leaguers. The recent arrivals have only added to the buzz.

"I've heard a little bit about it," d'Arnaud said. "I haven't heard a lot or read too much into it. But I know that [Sandy Alderson] has done a great job with a whole bunch of players over here, and I'm really excited, that's for sure."

D'Arnaud was the sixth Met this season to make his big-league debut. He joined two other highly regarded prospects, Flores and Zack Wheeler. The group also includes Lagares and reliever Gonzalez Germen, both of whom have made the most of their opportunities.

Despite his offensive struggles, Lagares has flashed his defensive prowess in centerfield, putting himself on the radar as the Mets move forward in their plans to revamp the outfield. The righthander Germen has impressed the coaching staff with his ability to perform in difficult situations. He recently nailed down his first big-league save, giving Collins even more reason to view him as a future back-end reliever.

Then there is d'Arnaud, the centerpiece of last winter's blockbuster trade of R.A. Dickey. Pitcher Noah Syndergaard, who has shined in the minors, also arrived in the deal.

Years will pass before it's possible to make any meaningful judgments about the blockbuster trade, though the early returns look promising.

"We're happy to have them both," Alderson said.

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