Twice traded for Cy Young Award winners and rated one of baseball’s top prospects the past four seasons, 51s catcher Travis d’Arnaud almost certainly would have reached the major leagues by now if not for a pair of unlikely injuries.
D’Arnaud’s season was cut short last year in Las Vegas when he tore a knee ligament sliding into second base and he was sidelined for nearly four months this season with a broken left foot from a foul ball.
The time appears to finally be at hand for d’Arnaud to receive his long-awaited call-up to the majors.
In his seventh pro season, the 24-year-old is expected to join the Mets when New York catcher John Buck leaves the team to be with his wife for the birth of their third child. Her due date was Aug. 1.
“I would assume he’s going to go there and catch when Buck goes home, and when Buck comes back Travis will come back here and catch every day,” 51s manager Wally Backman said. “In September he’s going to get another opportunity (with the Mets), I would imagine.”
Rated baseball’s No. 6 prospect by mlb.com, d’Arnaud was placed on the disabled list April 18 and activated July 31, when he was assigned to Double-A Binghamton. He joined Las Vegas on Friday, when the Mets started a 10-game trip to Arizona, Los Angeles and San Diego.
New York plays the Dodgers today and Wednesday, leaving open the possibility d’Arnaud — who was born and raised in Long Beach, Calif., and grew up a Dodgers fan — could make his big league debut at Dodger Stadium in front of his family and friends.
“That would be sick,” he said. “That would be an unbelievable experience for me.”
D’Arnaud is one of only three catchers — along with Buck and Anthony Recker — on New York’s 40-man roster.
“So if John has to go, it makes sense to bring d’Arnaud in here unless there’s a real good reason not to,” Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. “Right now, there isn’t a real good reason not to.”
If d’Arnaud does get the call, Mets manager Terry Collins said he’ll see action.
“He’ll be in the game,” Collins said.
D’Arnaud has been on a tear for the 51s after batting a combined .265 (13-for-49) in 13 games with Binghamton and the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Mets.
He launched a towering two-run homer to left field in the first inning Monday at Cashman Field and finished a triple shy of the cycle. He is 7-for-13 with five runs and four walks in his last four games.
“I’ve been feeling good at the plate,” he said.
D’Arnaud was a 2007 first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies, who traded him to Toronto in 2009 for Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays traded him after last season for another former Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey.
D’Arnaud said he has read about his possible promotion to the Mets but is focusing on the task at hand.
“I’ve heard a bunch of things but I’m trying not to think about it. I’m here right now and I’m trying to treat every at-bat as the most important at-bat of my career,” he said. “I’ve definitely thought about it. It’s in the back of my head, but I try to worry about what’s right in front of me.”
Coming off his third major injury in three seasons — he also underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his thumb in 2011 — d’Arnaud hasn’t altered his hard-nosed approach. He was involved in a violent home-plate collision with Oklahoma City’s catcher Saturday after running through Backman’s stop sign, but emerged unscathed.
“I still tip my hat to him because when you’re that aggressive, it’s easy to pull the reins back, but it’s hard to kick a dead horse,” Backman said. “He plays the game the way you want the game to be played.”
D’Arnaud fouled consecutive pitches off each foot in Sunday’s game, but wasn’t injured.
Despite his recent stints on the DL, he doesn’t believe he’s injury prone.
“From my past, that’s what it shows but I know they’re just freak injuries,” he said. “I’ve had three of them. Hopefully the third time’s the charm and that’s the last one.”
He said the Mets have talked to him about altering his approach to the game, but that’s easier said than done.
“As far as me blocking the plate (when runners are coming home), they advised me not to as much, but my instincts just kick in and I just want to win the game,” he said. “What can I do?”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354.