MIAMI — The Mets have suffered their first major injury of the season. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow.
D’Arnaud landed on the disabled list Wednesday after visiting with doctors in New York and getting an MRI, which revealed the tear. He will decide in the coming days whether to have season-ending Tommy John surgery or try to rest the injury and play through it.
“Travis has to make that tough decision,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “That’s a long road if he goes the surgery route.”
The Mets called up prospect Tomas Nido from Double-A Binghamton to replace him. Kevin Plawecki, who had been splitting time behind the plate with d’Arnaud, will be the full-time starter. “I think right now we have to consider Plawecki’s the guy,” Callaway said.
That thinking almost went out the window Wednesday, when Plawecki was struck on the left hand by a pitch in the eighth inning, which started the Mets’ four-run rally. Plawecki stayed in, scored the tying run, but was pinch hit for by Nido when the Mets batted around.
X-rays, however, were negative, and Plawecki is said to be day-to-day.
D’Arnaud first told the Mets about his soreness Tuesday, Callaway said, so they sent him to New York to get checked out. This is d’Arnaud’s sixth trip to the DL since 2014. He has been hurt by mid-May in each of the past five seasons. Scheduled to be a free agent after the 2019 season, d’Arnaud averaged about 90 games from 2014-17.
A partially torn UCL doesn’t necessarily require surgery. Righthander Seth Lugo is pitching through a similar issue, while infielder T.J. Rivera opted for surgery in September.
Tommy John surgery is more common for pitchers, but Boston’s Christian Vazquez and Washington’s Matt Wieters are among the catchers who have had it. Each missed about a year.
D’Arnaud posted a .200/.250/.400 slash line in four games and struggled defensively, catching just one of eight attempted base-stealers. The Nationals stole five bases against him Saturday. Callaway said he noticed a dropoff in d’Arnaud’s throwing ability.
“I think we all did. Just getting the ball there seemed to be an issue,” Callaway said. “There was some concern there. I hate that it ended up being this.”
This opens the door for Plawecki, who was 0-for-1 and is hitting .150.
Callaway and assistant general manager John Ricco expressed confidence in their new starter. “Kevin is more than ready for this challenge,” Ricco said. “It’s unfortunate the way it happened, but it’s certainly an opportunity for him.”
Asked about the possibility of a trade, Ricco said, “We’ll discuss short-term, long-term [options].”
Plawecki said he is going to try to go about his business the same way, despite his bump in playing time. Callaway said the key for Plawecki will be to not worry about hitting and instead focus on preparing with the pitchers and doing well defensively, because that is how he can make the greatest impact.
“Nothing is going to change for me. Preparation-wise it will be the same,” Plawecki said. “Feel bad for him. Same time we have to keep moving and keep working. Keep this thing going.”
Nido, who turns 24 Thursday, had a .278/.350/.389 slash line in five games for Binghamton this month, a small-sample-size improvement over his .232/.287/.354 line in Double-A last season. The Mets called up Nido for the first time last September when he played in five games.
Ricco said the Mets called up Nido instead of Jose Lobaton from Triple-A Las Vegas for logistical and 40-man-roster reasons.
Lobaton is an option. The Mets can create room on the 40-man by putting David Wright and/or d’Arnaud on the 60-day DL.
Travis d’Arnaud injury history the past five seasons:
Concussion, May 2014
Bone chip, right elbow, Sept. 2014
Fractured right pinky finger, April 2015
Sprained left elbow, June 2015
Strained right rotator cuff, April 2016
Bruised right wrist, May 2017
Partial tear of right elbow UCL, April 2018