Six games, that’s all. That’s how deep we are into the 2017 spring training schedule. So far, it’s been a relatively quiet camp, with some nuggets to glean from this early stage. None of the big four pitchers has faced real, live opposing batters yet. Zack Wheeler has bounced back from his early-camp troubles and has thrown live batting practice off an actual mound. Lucas Duda has had a back problem… no, a hip problem… no, no problem at all, according to Duda. However, he has received a cortisone shot and has yet to make an appearance in an exhibition game. He did swing a bat yesterday, though. And of course, David Wright has had to shut down his double-super-secret throwing program and return to New York to have his shoulder examined. He won’t be able to throw for at least two weeks and now his presence in the lineup on Opening Day is in question. Aaaaah, spring…
One of the big story lines coming into camp, though, was the crucial comeback of Travis d’Arnaud. 2016 was a lost year for d’Arnaud. A rotator cuff injury in late April put him on the shelf for the bulk of the season. Not that he was tearing the cover off the ball before that, though. When placed on the DL on April 26, he was hitting a dismal .196/.288/.261/.549. Not only that, considering his raggy shoulder, opposing base runners were taking full advantage, especially with Noah Syndergaard on the mound. When he returned from minor league rehab in late June, even the untrained eye could tell his batting stance and swing were completely screwed up. Perhaps the Las Vegas atmosphere gave him the false impression that he was doing the right thing – offensive stats skew notoriously high in the thin desert air. Somehow, he managed to put 54 points back onto his batting average, but his power, such a big part of his game in 2015, all but deserted him. You can see how stark it was, compared to 2015:
2015 – 67 games, 268 PA, 239 AB, .268/.340/.485/.825, 12 HR, 41 RBI
2016 – 75 games, 276 PA, 251 AB, .247/.307/.323/.629, 4 HR, 15 RBI
Even with his injury, he had ample opportunity to better his 2015 record. With all the mechanical issues, it’s no wonder he didn’t. It got so that as 2017 camp opened, the contending Mets, a favorite for at least one Wild Card slot, were said to have a gaping hole at catcher. After off-season work with hitting coach Kevin Long and new third base coach/catching guru Glenn Sherlock, d’Arnaud arrived in camp with a far better batting stance at the plate and improved footwork behind it. So far it’s translated to the field. D’Arnaud has played in half the Mets’ exhibition games, slashing .500/.500/.875/1.375 with a homer and 2 RBI. Is he all the way back? Who could tell from this? But the early indications are that his issues have been addressed.
We can only hope so. The last thing the Mets need is a gaping hole at catcher.
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