The Mets hired Mickey Callaway in part to be an innovator. One of the rookie manager’s innovations will be on display behind the plate at Thursday’s season opener at Citi Field.
Kevin Plawecki will be catching Noah Syndergaard. Not because Callaway wants Plawecki necessarily to catch Syndergaard — Travis d’Arnaud can do that just as well — but because the Cardinals are starting righthander Carlos Martinez.
Callaway said he will choose his starting catcher based not on who is pitching for the Mets, but who is pitching for the opposition. The exact formula is a well-kept secret, but it starts with Callaway believing that Plawecki is a better hitter against righties and d’Arnaud is better against lefties.
Callaway won’t reveal the math. D’Arnaud likened it to a secret from the TV cartoon show “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
“What do they use in ‘SpongeBob?’” d’Arnaud said. “The ‘Krabby Patty Secret Formula?’ That’s his secret formula. I’m just ready to play whenever my name’s up there. I know we’re going to know a couple days in advance. We’ll know the starters for who we’re going to be playing against, so that will be a good way to map out a routine and map out like lifting days or recovery days, whatever that either of us have to do. So I like it.”
In the waning days of spring training, Callaway spelled out his initial playing-time philosophy regarding his two catchers, who are both righthanded hitters.
“When I think about those two catchers, I think they both have different things to offer at the plate,” Callaway said. “I think they’re very similar behind the plate, when they catch. I think going into it — and this could change when we see them more and we have to think about night game and day game — I think that I’m going to lean more towards, ‘What can our catchers do against the opposing pitcher?’ I know what d’Arnaud can cover and what Plawecki can cover at the plate and what their strengths are and I think we’re going to try to take advantage of that in the matchup versus the pitcher that is pitching against us that night. It kind of makes sense to me since they’re so similar defensively.”
D’Arnaud, 29, has played in more major-league games than the 27-year-old Plawecki (393-158). Plawecki is a .194 hitter vs. lefties and .229 vs. righties. D’Arnaud is .250 vs. lefties and .244 vs. righties. The Mets’ numbers must go deeper than that.
So what’s the formula?
“That’s probably something I’d like to probably not divulge,” Callaway said. “It could be something strategic that we’re looking towards. But they definitely have different qualities that are going to allow us to take advantage of both of their strengths.”
If the Mets are to have a good season, d’Arnaud and Plawecki will have to stay healthy and help lengthen the lineup. Most important is how they handle the pitching staff.
“That was definitely my main focus this offseason,” d’Arnaud said. “That’s going to be the main focus all year for both of us.”
When camp opened, Plawecki said: “We just want to win games. It doesn’t really matter how we do it. No matter who’s back there, we’re supporting each other.”
The Mets are optimistic going into the season because Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey are all healthy. If that holds up for 162 games, it probably won’t matter much who’s catching them anyway.
“All four of those arms are magical,” d’Arnaud said. “All four of them starting the year off healthy is a really good sign.”