JUPITER, Fla. — Travis d’Arnaud took another test Thursday, this one effectively of the pass/fail variety, and he performed to his and the Mets’ satisfaction.
Starting a major-league (exhibition) game at catcher for the first time since Tommy John surgery last April, d’Arnaud played five innings in a 1-1 tie with the Cardinals. He went 0-for-3 at the plate and 0-for-2 against base-stealers from behind it.
Both of d’Arnaud’s throws trying to catch St. Louis’ Harrison Bader were off the mark. The first was short and drifted toward the third-base side of second base; the second sailed into centerfield. (Bader stole a third base against Tomas Nido.)
Still, it was another step forward in a long rehabilitation process, and d’Arnaud said he is throwing at full strength with no hesitation.
“It’s good to see him throw in action,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We’ve gotten to see it in between innings, but it’s good for him to start feeling what it feels like to throw in a game again when runners are running. The throw means something.”
Added d’Arnaud: “It’s more of a release point [problem] or where the ball needs to come out of my hand, and also if I don’t have a good grip, it’s better to throw it low than to throw it high. It’s things I have to remember and experience in a game like I did today.”
Zack Wheeler, pitching to d’Arnaud for the first time in more than a year, said the catcher framed pitches well.
Said Wheeler, “He looks as good as when he left.”
The next boxes for d’Arnaud to check: catching nine innings and making back-to-back starts at catcher (though those don’t need to each be nine innings). He expects to accomplish that by the end of spring training.
Another sign that Opening Day is drawing near: The Mets will start avoiding using some starting pitchers against the Marlins and Nationals, their NL East foes and frequent spring training opponents, not an unusual precaution. For example, Jacob deGrom, who will face Washington in the season opener, will pitch in a back-fields game Sunday instead of facing the Nats in the “A” game . . . Justin Wilson allowed one run in one inning Thursday and has a 10.80 ERA in Grapefruit League play. “He’s right where he needs to be stuff-wise,” Callaway said . . . Closer Edwin Diaz is scheduled to pitch Friday, his first game in five days. “This is the plan. He’s in a very good spot,” Callaway said. “He’s in a very good spot. Obviously, when he’s out there pitching, he’s looked great. [Pitching coach Dave Eiland] doesn’t want to overwork him.”