D’Arnaud streaks past slow start

Making his first foray into Triple A this season, highly touted 51s catcher Travis d’Arnaud was eager to impress. Instead, he merely pressed, batting .182 through the first two weeks.

Since then, the 23-year-old has found his groove and is showing why MLB.com rates him as the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospect and the No. 25 prospect in baseball.

D’Arnaud entered Saturday riding a 14-game hitting streak, during which he batted 21-for-60 (.350) and raised his season average 97 points to .279. His streak ended with an 0-for-3 night in the 51s’ 4-2 victory over Salt Lake at Cashman Field.

“Obviously, when I came up to a new level, I wanted to impress everyone, so I just had to learn how to relax and play my game,” d’Arnaud said. “I just had to slow everything down.

“Every level you go up, the game speeds up, so you have to get your feet wet and get used to playing at this level every day.”

A 2007 first-round draft pick by Philadelphia who was acquired by the Blue Jays in the December 2009 trade for Roy Halladay, d’Arnaud also overcame a slow start last season at Double-A New Hampshire.

He batted .188 in April before being sidelined by a concussion after taking two consecutive foul balls off his catcher’s mask. He bounced back to bat .311 with 21 homers and 78 RBIs en route to Eastern League Most Valuable Player honors and helping New Hampshire win the league crown.

“I’ve had three seasons so far where I’ve started out slow,” d’Arnaud said. “That definitely helped me out with this one, knowing everything was going to be OK and I don’t need to press or overthink anything.

“I wasn’t really worried. I figured as long as I could relax, sooner or later they’ll start falling and I’ll start getting hits.”

51s manager Marty Brown raves about d’Arnaud’s defense and said his offense will come around in time.

“It’s always going to be a learning experience for Travis this year,” he said. “He’s very sure of himself, but he’s also realized adjustments are going to have to be made not only at this level, but at the next level.

“It’s a grind, especially as a catcher, but I think he has the talent and intelligence to make the adjustments he needs to make. It’s just going to take a little time.”

While d’Arnaud often queries teammates for insights into the game, he need look no further for advice than his 25-year-old brother, Chase d’Arnaud, who made his major league debut last season with the Pirates.

A shortstop, Chase d’Arnaud began this year with Triple-A Indianapolis, where he was involved in a scary incident in the second game of the season, getting hit in the head with a pitch.

“He actually had a concussion, too,” Travis said. “He took a fastball right in the forehead. It broke his helmet.”

Chase d’Arnaud has been on the disabled list since then, but expects to be activated soon, his brother said.

Travis said he and Chase are close and have long pushed each other in baseball. They shared a room at home in Long Beach, Calif., until Chase left to attend Pepperdine, and Travis said when his brother was summoned by the Pirates last year, it felt like he was going to the majors as well.

“He called me the night he got called up and I’ll never forget it,” Travis said. “Shoot, I was pumped up and jumping all over everywhere, and when he got his first hit I was jumping up and down and everything, too.

“It makes me want to work harder and get up to where he’s been.”

■ NOTE – Salt Lake right-hander Garrett Richards, the Angels’ No. 3 prospect by Baseball America, had his start pushed back to Monday’s 10:35 a.m. game at Cashman Field.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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