Travis d'Arnaud still waiting for that first hit

Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets walks back to Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets walks back to the bench after striking out in the fourth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Citi Field on April 4, 2014. Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

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Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since July 4, ...

As the well-struck ball made its way to leftfield, Travis d'Arnaud had to think for a moment that this was the one he had waited for all week.

It was a drive that appeared to be headed over the leftfield wall for a go-ahead two-run home run in the seventh inning Sunday, and it would have been d'Arnaud's first hit of the season.

But it was neither. It was caught at the warning track by Reds leftfielder Ryan Ludwick. D'Arnaud never got up again and the Mets went on to lose to Cincinnati, 2-1.

D'Arnaud, the Mets' rookie catcher, is hitless in his first 15 at-bats. He has struck out six times, which on this whiff-tastic Mets team is par for the course.

In six games, the 2-4 Mets have struck out 61 times. That's a team record. The old record was 52.

D'Arnaud also hit a long fly ball to center, so at least that's something. The Mets have praised the 25-year-old's defense, but the bat is his calling card. "He'll be fine," David Wright said. "He can hit. He's hit at every level."

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True. Except for the biggest one. Not yet, anyway.

D'Arnaud hit .202 with one home run and five RBIs in 99 at-bats late last season in his first exposure to big-league pitching. So his lifetime average in the majors is .175.

In the minors, d'Arnaud was known for two things: hitting and getting hurt. In 86 career games at Triple-A, he hit .328 with 18 homers, 64 RBIs and an OPS of .990.

Put those numbers in a minor-to-majors translation gizmo and you can see why the Blue Jays and Mets each traded for d'Arnaud in deals involving Cy Young Award winners Roy Halladay and R.A. Dickey.

Two-way catchers are rare, and d'Arnaud has a chance to be one. The Mets have no Plan B -- why didn't they sign a veteran backup again? -- so it's d'Arnaud or bust.

"Are we concerned?" manager Terry Collins said. "I'm worried about his mental approach more than anything. [He] came into the season as an integral part of not only the defense but the offense. His spot in the lineup, we've got to get some production out of it.

"I just want him to make sure that he's got to battle through it. There's no easy answers. The only way you do it is grind it out and have an approach, stick with it, don't overswing, don't do anything different except try to put a good swing on it. Try to put a consistent, good swing on the baseball."

If that message has been imparted to d'Arnaud, he says he has heard it. The Mets can be a little approach-happy -- sometimes you get the idea they care more about their hitters getting into "deep counts" than the actual result of the at-bats -- but d'Arnaud seems to have a pretty simple philosophy.

"My swing feels good," said d'Arnaud, who let a foul pop fall untouched near the Mets' dugout in the ninth (no error was charged). "Just having that short swing and keeping my eye on the ball. Waiting for my pitch . . . They'll start falling eventually."

Perhaps the drive to left would have ended up over or off the wall on a warmer day. D'Arnaud did hit three homers in spring training (while hitting only .163). "It got in on me a little bit, but I thought I got enough of it," he said. "What can you do?"

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Said Collins: "I thought Travis' ball had a shot, yeah."

So does Travis -- to be really good. Tuesday night in Atlanta would be a nice time to start. The Mets don't need catcher to be a problem, too.

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