PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Kevin Plawecki’s hold on an Opening Day roster spot might not be a lock after all.
While he likely will start the season in the majors — even if it means playing behind starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud — sources said discussions continue about sending Plawecki to the minors.
Having Plawecki begin the season with Triple-A Las Vegas would open the door for more consistent at-bats, which could prove crucial if he’s forced to replace d’Arnaud because of injury. In that scenario, the Mets would carry lefthanded-hitting Johnny Monell as the major-league backup.
The Mets consider Plawecki a front-line catcher, and throughout the offseason, team officials discussed using him in some kind of tandem with d’Arnaud, who has yet to prove he can stay healthy for a full big-league season.
As spring training unfolds, what remains unclear is how much the Mets believe they can play d’Arnaud while still keeping him healthy. That answer will determine how much Plawecki plays, and perhaps whether he breaks camp with the Mets.
The Mets appear to be leaning toward carrying Plawecki on the big-league roster to begin the season. As expected, he sees more value in staying in the majors, even if he’d get more playing time in the minors.
“Just in general, I think you learn more on a day-to-day basis even if you’re not playing as much,” Plawecki said Saturday. “You learn just as much, actually in my opinion more, just because you’re around the game and around the guys in the locker room. You’re constantly learning every day. That’s what I learned last year. And this year, we’ll just kind of see how it plays out.”
Plawecki, 25, was the Mets’ 35th overall selection out of Purdue in the 2012 draft. After a steady rise through the minors, he made his big-league debut last season, twice stepping in when d’Arnaud landed on the disabled list.
Plawecki was drafted in part because of his advanced plate approach, but in 73 games, he hit .219.
When d’Arnaud returned in July, Plawecki’s playing time dwindled. He spent much of August with Las Vegas before returning as a backup when rosters expanded in September.
But even as he took a backseat to d’Arnaud, Plawecki said he picked up plenty of useful lessons from the bench, thanks to veterans such as Michael Cuddyer.
“He’d just point out little things, how to take that extra base,” Plawecki said. “He just talked about how to play the game, how to respect the game, how it should be played. It kind of goes a long way, at least in my eyes with me.”
For now, Plawecki’s focus is on refining the swing adjustments he made late last season. He’s widened his stance to get more of his lower body involved in his swing. He also has quieted his hands.
“I’m just trying to get comfortable with it,” he said. “I’ve got so much more time in the box now that I’m just trying to get used to feeling it and repeating it over and over again. The games will make that feel more comfortable because obviously it’s going a lot quicker. I’ve got it down in batting practice. It’s just a matter of taking it to the game.”
Plawecki showed some of that increasing comfort in the Mets’ 3-1 Grapefruit League victory over the Astros on Saturday. In addition to throwing out a would-be base-stealer, Plawecki went 1-for-3, including a sixth-inning double to left.
“He’s a good hitter,” manager Terry Collins said. “He was signed because he’s a good hitter. They’re working on a couple of things. They’re spreading him out, dropping his hands a little bit to get the bat flatter through the strike zone. He got a good swing on it today.”