Travis d’Arnaud has watched much of Jacob deGrom’s emergence into one of baseball’s elite starters from afar over the past year. It was one of several reasons the returning catcher was thrilled to regain “the best seat in the house” Tuesday night at Citi Field.
The Twins tagged deGrom for his first non-quality start since last May, however, and d’Arnaud drew renewed rounds of boos during an 0-for-5 showing to take much of the luster away from his first start behind the plate for the Mets since last April 8. He had season-ending Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow nine days later.
“It’s been a full year since that happened, so I’m very surprised to see it,” d’Arnaud said about deGrom’s rare poor outing in the Mets’ 14-8 loss to Minnesota. “Unfortunately, it happened today, the day I was catching, so I have to partially take blame for it.”
Before the game, d’Arnaud expressed excitement over his return to active duty, saying, “It’s something that I’ve always thought about, every single day the last full year.”
The oft-injured backstop has lost his starting job to free-agent signing Wilson Ramos, but d’Arnaud was reinstated to the active roster Sunday and caught the final two innings against Washington after entering the game as a pinch hitter.
“It was nice to get in the game and get that part over with,” d’Arnaud said. “It was nice working with \[relievers Robert\] Gsellman and \[Seth\] Lugo back there, and it was like riding a bike with them because I’ve caught them for years prior and in spring training.”
The Mets often used Devin Mesoraco as deGrom’s personal catcher last season, but d’Arnaud became the third receiver in as many starts to serve as the starting battermate with the Cy Young winner already this season. Ramos and since-demoted Tomas Nido caught deGrom’s first two outings, and he didn’t give up a run in either of them.
Mickey Callaway said beforehand that starting d’Arnaud was “just coincidence” and “it’s pretty evident that whoever catches \[deGrom\], he’s pretty good.”
That was before the righty was rocked for three home runs and charged with six runs over four innings.
Callaway expects Ramos to start three of the four games in Atlanta beginning Thursday. He also wants the two-time All-Star to catch Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday against the Twins.
Still, Callaway views d’Arnaud as an offensive contributor off the bench. He also believes the seven-year veteran “has thrown the ball better than he ever has in his career” post-surgery, especially during his recent minor-league rehab assignment.
D’Arnaud threw out Max Kepler trying to steal in the fourth inning, but he went hitless in five at-bats, including a strikeout with two runners in scoring position in the second. He was booed after popping out to foul territory in the sixth, but he drove in a run on an infield out in the ninth.
“I had a couple of good throws,” d’Arnaud said, “but I’d rather have won the game.”