Mets send Travis d'Arnaud down to minors

Catcher Travis D'Arnaud does catching drills during a

Catcher Travis D'Arnaud does catching drills during a spring training workout at Tradition Field. (Feb. 15, 2013) (Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa)

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets optioned Travis d'Arnaud to Triple-A Las Vegas, but not before general manager Sandy Alderson heaped praise on the top catching prospect. In essence, Alderson acknowledged that the Mets would be comfortable calling up d'Arnaud, even if it meant allowing the prospect to reach salary arbitration and free agency one year earlier.

"I know people talk about control and Super Two and all of that," Alderson said. "If John Buck gets hurt tomorrow, Travis d'Arnaud is the front-line catcher."

It has become common for clubs to delay promoting top prospects in order to prevent early arbitration and free agency. But the Mets already had offered one indication that they might be willing to forgo those considerations for d'Arnaud, the centerpiece of this winter's R.A. Dickey trade.

The 24-year-old remained for so long that had he been injured in a Grapefruit League game and forced onto the disabled list, he would have started earning big- league service time. However, with the possibility of an early promotion, the Mets put a higher priority on d'Arnaud getting to know the team's pitching staff regardless of the risk.

"You can't make these decisions scared," a person familiar with the Mets' thinking said at the time.

D'Arnaud hit .343 in 16 exhibition games. One longtime scout who watched d'Arnaud extensively said the catcher already is big league-ready. One rival executive believes d'Arnaud could hold his own in the majors right now but said he might benefit from getting 200 to 300 more at-bats with Triple-A Las Vegas.

Nevertheless, d'Arnaud put himself in position for an early call-up, which could come as soon as late April. Of course, an injury to Buck could accelerate the timetable.

Said Alderson: "He met all of our expectations, which I think for the organization and Mets fans were fairly high."

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