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Hot Rene Rivera might have won starting catcher job

Rene Rivera of the New York Mets connects

Rene Rivera of the New York Mets connects on a sixth-inning RBI single against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Citi Field on Friday, May 19, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The numbers for Rene Rivera are stunning.

Rivera brought a .320 average into Saturday night’s game and still is batting .308, even though his career-best hitting streak was snapped at 11 games in the Mets’ 7-5 victory over the Angels. During the streak, he was 17-for-43 (.395) with 12 RBIs.

Rivera’s hot stretch has done more than raise his career batting average to .220. It has made manager Terry Collins pledge to keep playing him even after catcher Travis d’Arnaud returns from his latest minor-league rehab assignment.

D’Arnaud, who is recovering from a bruised right wrist while playing for Class A St. Lucie, could be back in about three days, Collins said. But he might not come back as the No. 1 catcher.

“When Travis comes back, obviously we’ll have to make some decisions,” Collins said. “Rene Rivera has earned a spot, has earned a job catching. We’re going to play him as much as possible . . . By no means are we going to sit Rene Rivera down and not have him play much anymore.”

Rivera, 33, has never had more than the 329 plate appearances he had in 2014 with San Diego, when he hit .254 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs in 103 games. He fell off to .178 in 110 games with Tampa Bay in 2015 before joining the Mets as a backup last year and hitting .222 in 65 games.

“He’s a guy who came here with a tremendous reputation of handling pitching and a good arm,” Collins said. “Well, now he’s become an offensive threat. He’s really been a great surprise and a very, very important piece of our lineup.”

Two grand for Jose

Jose Reyes picked up his 2,000th career hit with a single to left in the first inning against the Angels on Saturday night.

Reyes’ hit gave him 1,396 with the Mets, behind only David Wright (1,777) and Ed Kranepool (1,418) in franchise history.

Use and overuse

Collins said he is using Paul Sewald in bigger spots not only because of the rookie’s effectiveness but because Collins knows he has overused some of his other relievers.

“Certainly, I’m the responsible guy,” Collins said. “With our starting pitching, really with what happened the first month of the season, I’ve worn out [Fernando] Salas and probably very similar with [Hansel] Robles, even though the other night he was throwing 99. I think those guys have pitched a lot.

“One thing I’ve liked from what I’ve seen out of Sewald, he comes out pounding the strike zone. I like that, especially in those late innings.”

Sewald has a 2.92 ERA in nine appearances.

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