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Travis d'Arnaud works well with Matt Harvey in first game together

Matt Harvey delivers a pitch to Travis d'Arnaud

Matt Harvey delivers a pitch to Travis d'Arnaud in the first inning of a spring training game against the Houston Astros. (Feb. 24, 2013) Credit: AP

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Eight months had passed since Travis d'Arnaud last stepped into the batter's box. He was nervous. So before Sunday's 7-7 tie with the Astros, the Mets' catching prospect went to Pandora, where he dialed up some Beethoven. He hoped classical music might calm his pounding heart.

Few would have blamed d'Arnaud had he sprinted to the bat rack at the end of the first inning. He was scheduled to lead off the second, his first plate appearance since a knee injury ended his season last June.

But instead, the 24-year-old waited in front of the dugout, then went out of his way to bump fists with pitcher Matt Harvey for working out of a first-inning jam.

"I always do that," d'Arnaud said. "Defense comes first."

So ended the first inning of the first game in a partnership that the Mets hope will flourish. If all goes according to plan, before the end of this season, d'Arnaud and Harvey will have taken their place as two critical cogs in the franchise's rebuilding effort. But for now, only in the Grapefruit League can they offer glimpses of what soon might be possible.

While Harvey, 23, begins the season with a spot in the Mets' rotation, d'Arnaud is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas for more seasoning. Still, both have made it easy for fans to hold high expectations.

"It's in the back of my head, but I try not to think about it," said d'Arnaud, the key piece in the trade that sent Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays. "I can't really control that."

But he can control the impression he makes in camp. In his Grapefruit League debut, d'Arnaud didn't miss the chance to showcase his skills behind the plate.

"Travis did a nice job of handling him, calling the game, and I thought his receiving was very good," said manager Terry Collins, who plans to have d'Arnaud work with every member of the starting rotation before the end of spring training. "Matt threw good. He made some good pitches."

In his 2013 exhibition debut, Harvey struck out three in two innings, allowing his only run on a solo shot by former Mets prospect Fernando Martinez. Though Harvey's command needed some work -- "That's expected right now," he said -- his arm looked close to game-ready. According to a scout in attendance, his fastball topped out at 98 mph and averaged 95 mph.

After his stint, Harvey credited d'Arnaud for framing a few of those fastballs for strikes. The two even worked through their first rough spot.

With two outs in the first inning, Harvey faced Carlos Peña, who worked the count full. Harvey wanted to throw a four-seam fastball, hoping it would be enough to put Peña away.

"He was calling everything but that," Harvey said of d'Arnaud, who had never even caught Harvey in the bullpen.

Sensing the moment, d'Arnaud jogged to the mound to confer with Harvey, who insisted upon throwing his fastball. D'Arnaud obliged, and Peña swung through it.

Moments later, pitcher and catcher met in front of the dugout, congratulating one another on getting out of their first jam.

"Obviously, there's going to be some miscommunication there, but that's expected as well," Harvey said. "Other than that, he's close. He's very close."

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