The weirdest night of Travis d’Arnaud’s career began about 90 minutes before first pitch. That’s when catcher learned that injuries to Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes left the Mets scrambling for an infielder.
Their answer was throwing d’Arnaud into a last-minute experiment. Not only would he be playing the infield against the Yankees, but he would bounce between second and third base, positions he had never before played as a professional. So he reached for his phone to text David Wright, asking the injured Mets captain if he could borrow one of his gloves. He also sought advice.
“Use it well,” the response came back. “Dive for everything. Stay low.”
In the Mets’ 5-3 loss to the Yankees, d’Arnaud went back and forth between third and second 22 times, alternating with infielder Asdrubal Cabrera. The scheme worked.
When righties came to the plate, Cabrera shifted to third with d’Arnaud moving to second, away from the pull side. The alignment was reversed for lefties. The only exceptions came during double play situations, with Cabrera sticking at second to make the turn.
By game’s end, Cabrera had handled five chances between the two positions. And d’Arnaud was effectively hidden away, his only action coming on a Todd Frazier pop up to second base in the ninth inning.
“I wanted to make a diving play down the line or rob someone of a base hit — like people do to me,” d’Arnaud said.
Yet, the ingenuity couldn’t spare the Mets from dropping a third straight game to the Yankees. Even before d’Arnaud sudden switch, the day began with drama, with an irritated general manager Sandy Alderson scolded pitcher Robert Gsellman, who allowed three runs (two earned) in 5 1⁄3 innings.
Last week, Alderson noted that Gsellman needed to pitch better during his minor league rehab assignment. The righty answered by throwing six scoreless innings in his final tuneup.
But when asked about Alderson’s critique on Tuesday, Gsellman replied, “I really don’t care.” The GM said he’d give the pitcher “a pass” but offered a warning.
“I hope he reflects on the implications of that statement and the potential consequences of that statement,” Alderson said.
But after the game, Gsellman said that two had mended fences.
“I went up to him and apologized for it,” Gsellman said. “I definitely do need to pitch better. I really care. This job’s my job so I definitely care. So I apologized to Sandy for saying that and we talked it out.”
Of course, it turned out that the Mets had bigger issues to worry about than an employee mouthing off to a boss.
According to Collins, Reyes and Flores both felt issues with their rib cages the night before, but neither had notified the team. Both had problems getting loose before the game, forcing a shift.
Afterward, Collins did not know the extent of the injuries, though he indicated that the Mets might need to summon infielders from Triple-A. In the meantime, Collins was left with a bench of two outfielders and a hole in the infield.
It’s unclear who devised the work-around. But as a player in the minors in 1976, Collins himself played in a game in which he was forced to bounce between second and third. He quickly offered d’Arnaud reassurance.
“I told him before the game ‘look, I’d seen this done before,” Collins said. “Not that it’s always going to work but it was the only option we had.”
In the clubhouse, d’Arnaud said he was “fired up” to take on the challenge. He recalled lessons he picked up from a video report that featured Rockies Gold Glover Nolan Arenado explaining how to play third base.
By night’s end, his fielding percentage as an infielder was 1.000.
Said d’Arnaud: “I wish we could have gotten the win instead.”