Travis d'Arnaud anxious to learn; Mets fall to Cleveland

Travis d'Arnaud waits to bat in the second Travis d'Arnaud waits to bat in the second inning of a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citi Field. (Aug. 26, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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CLEVELAND - Travis d'Arnaud hustled out of the clubhouse and found a comfortable seat in the visiting dugout.

It was a few hours before a game in Washington last week and the Mets' rookie catcher didn't want to miss a chance to do some homework on a group of new hitters. So as the Nationals took batting practice, d'Arnaud studied each swing, searching for information he might use later on.

He noticed which hitters pulled the ball, which ones went the other way. And sometimes, such as when Bryce Harper stepped into the cage, d'Arnaud simply soaked it in.

"Obviously, it's a game of learning, and I'm learning something new every day," said d'Arnaud, who has been on a program of total immersion since his promotion little more than three weeks ago.

With veteran John Buck traded away, d'Arnaud has started 16 of 20 games since his call-up, including Saturday night's 9-4 loss to the Indians. During that stretch, the 24-year-old catcher has picked up where he left off in spring training, leaving a strong impression with the coaching staff.

"He's a real sharp guy, he's going to get it, and he's going to know what he has to do when he comes in next year to play at the quality we need him to play," manager Terry Collins said.

During his first major-league stint, d'Arnaud has shown that he's far from a finished product. After going 0-for-4 Saturday night against the Indians, d'Arnaud is hitting .143 with a homer and three RBIs, a product of what he called being "way too anxious" at the plate.

"He's trying to do too much and trying to show everybody what he can do, I'm sure," hitting coach Dave Hudgens said.

Runners are 10-for-12 while stealing bases against him, including four more Saturday night by the Indians. Some of his throws have wound up in the outfield. He's also been behind the plate for eight wild pitches and two passed balls.

"He's had a couple of balls get by him," said bench coach Bob Geren, a former big-league catcher who has been working with d'Arnaud extensively. "Some are not necessarily his fault but some I think maybe he can block and catch after he gets a feel for the pitching staff."

D'Arnaud also has showcased some of the talents that prompted the Mets to obtain him and trade away R.A. Dickey, last year's Cy Young Award winner. Pitchers and coaches have given d'Arnaud high marks for his advanced skills as a receiver. Specifically, he makes borderline pitches look like strikes, a skill that has grown more coveted in recent years as new research uncovers its value.

Said Geren: "He looks like one of the best young receivers I've ever seen."

Offensively, d'Arnaud hasn't been helped by missing out on at-bats during his lengthy rehab from a foot fracture. That's part of the reason that Collins believes it's best to reserve judgment on d'Arnaud's hitting ability. Still, Hudgens has seen enough to spot the signs that d'Arnaud will hit big-league pitching.

"He's got a great demeanor and the ball absolutely jumps off his bat," Hudgens said. "He's got a great swing."

Perhaps just as important, d'Arnaud has shown what Geren called "all the things you want from a young guy." The rookie hasn't shied away from acknowledging his mistakes, and despite his woes at the plate, Hudgens has sensed no panic.

"Offensively, I've got to slow it down and wait for my pitch," d'Arnaud said. "I think I'm getting a little too anxious right now. I'm just trying to get a hit instead of waiting for my pitch and trying to put a good swing on it."

Notes & quotes: Lefthander Jonathon Niese (6-7) allowed five runs and five hits in the first inning as the Indians sent nine batters to the plate. He allowed nine hits, two walks and six runs (five earned) in six innings . . . David Wright will join the Mets in New York this week to continue his rehab from a strained hamstring . . . Frank Francisco was activated from the disabled list and will join the team Sunday . . . Reliever Greg Burke also will join the team Sunday now that Triple-A Las Vegas has been eliminated from the postseason. Shortstop Ruben Tejada also is expected to be promoted shortly.

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