PITTSBURGH — Kevin Plawecki’s long-awaited shot at being the Mets’ outright, unquestioned No. 1 catcher came April 11 when the club announced that Travis d’Arnaud, Plawecki’s friend and platoon mate, had suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament. His season was over.
After jockeying for playing time throughout spring training and for parts of years past, Plawecki finally was the guy.
That lasted seven innings. A 98-mph fastball from Miami’s Tayron Guerrero broke Plawecki’s left hand. By the time he returned a month and a half later, the Mets had acquired Devin Mesoraco, who has topped the backstop depth chart since.
Plawecki is still waiting for his chance.
“It’s part of what comes with playing. It [stunk],” he said. “It was the first time I had to really deal with an injury in my whole career, so in that sense, I’m lucky. But the timing of it could not have been any worse.”
Plawecki has tried to make the most of his chances since, hitting .258 with a .349 on-base percentage and .430 slugging percentage while starting slightly less than half of the games.
That production is about in line with his .248/.372/.406 slash line since he was promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas almost a year ago. By wRC+ — a “runs created” metric from FanGraphs, used as a sort of bottom-line approximation of offensive value — Plawecki this year has been a little worse than the Cubs’ Willson Con treras and the Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, and better than the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Reds’ Tucker Barnhart, the reason Cincinnati didn’t need Mesoraco.
The self-belief remains for Plawecki, and it’s a sentiment manager Mickey Callaway shares.
“There’s no reason he can’t be someone’s No. 1,” Callaway said. “I think we’re going to get to find out exactly what he can do some more this second half and continue to evaluate what we have.
“He has all the potential. He can lay off tough pitches. He’s got some pop. He’s got the ability to prepare well. He’s been doing a great job; I think Devin has really showed him the way in that regard. And he’s a smart kid.”
The Mets have received interest in Mesoraco, a source said, and any deal with him would be minor enough that it could happen even beyond Tuesday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
That would create another opening for Plawecki.
“Unfortunately, the circumstances are what they are. In this game, things can happen overnight,” Plawecki said. “So just got to continue to stay on top of what I need to stay on top of, keep working hard, stay ready, and when I’m in there, keep having fun.”
In the meantime, Plawecki will keep working with coach Glenn Sherlock, which for much of the season — even while he was hurt — has focused on Plawecki’s throwing.
Plawecki threw out one of three attempted base-stealers (and came close on the other two) in the Mets’ 1-0 win over the Pirates on Sunday, erasing Starling Marte at second in the eighth. “Probably the most important runner of the night,” Callaway said.
This year, Plawecki has caught 22.5 percent of runners trying to steal. That’s below the league average of 29.0 percent.
“We’ve been working tirelessly on it, Sherlock and I, every single day,” Plawecki said. “It’s been a huge emphasis. It’s something I know I needed to improve on with my game, and we’re going to continue keep working on it and keep being consistent with it.”