PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Dee Gordon, the Marlins’ resident speedster, broke for third base Sunday. He got a bad jump, though, leaving himself vulnerable. An accurate throw by Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud would have nailed him by five feet.
After all, throws to third base are far shorter than throws to second, and Gordon’s gaffe gave d’Arnaud even more time. As an added bonus, the pitch was high and away, getting him halfway up from his crouch. And with a lefthanded batter at the plate, he had a clear lane to throw.
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For a big league catcher, this is baseball’s equivalent of a gimme. But d’Arnaud’s throw sailed into leftfield, well over the head of third baseman Ty Kelly. It was a reminder of the work that still lies ahead as d’Arnaud tries to clean up his throwing woes.
“I’m this close to being exactly where I want to be,” d’Arnaud said, holding his fingers close after the Mets’ 7-5 loss to the Marlins. “It’s just trusting the process now; keep working and I’m going to get it.”
The Mets have a lot riding on the 28-year-old d’Arnaud picking up the pieces from a nightmarish 2016 campaign, one in which he hit only .247, caught just 22 percent of runners and spent a chunk of the year on the shelf.
When the Mets acquired d’Arnaud in the 2012 R.A. Dickey trade, team officials were convinced that they had landed their franchise catcher. But by season’s end last year, d’Arnaud was backing up Rene Rivera, all after the Mets tried trading for a replacement in Jonathan Lucroy.
Yet the Mets not only stuck with d’Arnaud this offseason but brought in longtime Diamondbacks coach Glenn Sherlock, partly because of his track record of working with catchers.
“I fully expect him to be able to do this,” Sherlock said. “I have confidence in him. We’re going to continue to work every day and continue to improve.”
Offensively, d’Arnaud looks to have turned the page. With a more simplified swing, he’s hitting .324/.410/.559 with two homers. But runners are 7-for-8 on steals against him.
Terry Collins said arm strength has not been a problem, an assertion shared by rival evaluators, who also insist his throwing mechanics are generally clean. But they say he’s still not consistently getting into a throwing position quickly enough.
Part of the issue is as simple as executing a cleaner transfer, which one rival scout said has been a consistent issue all spring. It came up again on d’Arnaud’s errant throw to third base, which he fired even though he did not have a good grip.
“We noticed that I was actually trying to flip it into my hand instead of just getting it out of the glove,” d’Arnaud said of the video review sessions he’s had with Sherlock.
Instead, d’Arnaud said he should be reaching into his mitt with his throwing hand to secure the ball, increasing the chances of a clean transfer. It’s one part of an ongoing challenge.
“We’re trying to create good habits, and that’s something we’re trying to create a good habit with,” Sherlock said. “I have confidence that we can better that.”