Travis d'Arnaud figured that the discomfort in his right elbow stemmed simply from the rigors of playing in September. Then he felt a pop.
Three days later, doctors discovered a bone spur that will require surgery, effectively ending a critical season in which d'Arnaud made the transition from touted prospect to key contributor.
"Just not giving up," d'Arnaud said Friday when asked what he'd take away from a season in which he bounced back from a jarring demotion to the minor leagues, then established himself as the Mets' starting catcher.
D'Arnaud, 25, hit .242 with 13 homers and 41 RBIs. With a 105 OPS+, he will finish the season as an above average offensive player, a testament to how he roared back after he was sent down in June.
He was hitting just .180 when he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas to work on his swing. After returning June 24, d'Arnaud posted a .272/.319/.486 slash line with 10 homers.
"What happened was probably meant to happen," d'Arnaud said. "I just had to go down there and continue working, working, working."
Acquired from the Blue Jays in 2012 as the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade, the Mets thought they were getting a potential middle-of-the-order bat in d'Arnaud. For the first time as a major-leaguer, he showed signs of living up to the hype.
"When you get sent down, it's always a tough thing to take when you're a major-league player," said manager Terry Collins, who credited d'Arnaud for taking the demotion in stride.
Recently, Collins reminded d'Arnaud that he was "over the hard part," having proven that he belongs in the big leagues. Now the focus will be on improvement, which can only begin when d'Arnaud has surgery to remove the bone spur.
In some ways, d'Arnaud was fortunate. Despite the spur, doctors found no damage to his elbow ligaments, meaning that surgery won't come with a lengthy rehab. Scheduled for Wednesday, the procedure shouldn't affect his typical offseason routine.
"It could have been worse," d'Arnaud said. "It could have been ligament damage. It could have been muscle damage."
Regarded as a hit-first catcher, d'Arnaud endured his share of defensive struggles in what was essentially his first full big-league season. Collins believes that playing through the pain of the bone spur might have played a part in d'Arnaud's struggles behind the plate.
"He really hasn't said a lot about it," Collins said. "But knowing him, he probably thought it was wear and tear from the position he plays . . . I think he changed his mechanics to try to get rid of the discomfort."
While d'Arnaud acknowledged that he was bothered "a little bit" by the issue, he still felt well enough to play.
"I just tried to be out there every day and do whatever I can to help the team win, just make clean throws to second," he said. "And unfortunately, I couldn't do that for the last few weeks or so."
Behind the plate, d'Arnaud caught only 19 percent of potential base stealers, well below the NL average of 28 percent. His 12 passed balls lead the league. In the offseason, d'Arnaud said his goal is to "improve on that tremendously," mostly by finding a routine that will help him stay on top of his throwing and receiving skills.
"Just believing in myself and trusting the process," d'Arnaud said. "I know I can trust the process more and it's worked. That's pretty much it."