Travis d’Arnaud is on the disabled list again and that has been a common occurrence for the New York Mets catcher. This time it is a right rotator cuff strain and there is no telling how much time it will take before d’Arnaud is up and ready again to assume his position behind the plate. But the Mets have their backup Kevin Plawecki and Tuesday night he stepped in to assume the role.
Is it big shoes to fill for the time being, or does Plawecki, who had three hits in 17 at bats before Tuesday have a big challenge ahead? Plawecki was put into the role last season for 66 games when the injury prone d’Arnaud was disabled twice. There wasn’t much of an impact with the at bats, but he did throw out his portion of runners trying to take the extra base.
Plawecki has shown he has the Major League experience. The Mets hierarchy have looked at the 25-year old supplemental round pick of 2012 as an untouchable and got the call again to come up when big league rosters expanded last September 1st During that time it was the arm of Plawecki that threw out 11-of-43 runners attempting to steal.
And that tenacity to throw out base runners, along with the ability to handle a bad pitch made him the perfect backup to d’Arnaud last Fall as the Mets came up short to the Royals in the World Series, though Plawecki failed to appear in a game during the divisional, NLCS and World Series.
In the Mets four-run four hit seventh inning, that gave them the lead and eventual 4- 3 win over the Cincinnati Reds, Plawecki singled to right center field and later scored. He also handled a 95 mile sinker off closer Jeurys Familia in the ninth inning that closed the game as the Mets.
“Right now we are going to need him,” said Mets manager Terry Collins. “There are times when you have an opportunity and this is a big chance for him. It’s the right part of the season because he has been playing a bit and now he can get in there and say, I can do this.”
And depending on how long it takes for d’Arnaud to recover, Plawecki will have the opportunity to prove he has this role now as the starting catcher. The Mets called up veteran Rene Rivera as the backup who was sharing the duties with Johnny Monell in Las Vegas to supplement the temporary loss of d:Arnaud.
Plawecki does not feel this latest starting role is a challenge. And for a player who entered the season with 147 days of big league experience, that is confidence.
“Feel good, “ he said about the first at bat. “Trying to keep it simple and keep playing the game. It isn’t much of a challenge. Its an opportunity. It’s just a matter of stringing together some good good at bats and tonight was a good start at that.”
He added “I wouldn’t say it was much of a challenge. You tell me where is the challenge at?” as he took exception to a question about perhaps this being a pressure situation early in the season.
But the shoes to fill, is what Plawecki can accomplish in the lineup. He has the capability of getting a big hit and with a quick bat. One scout said recently that throwing out base runners and protecting the plate are a major asset of the Mets catcher who does have the role now of filling in the shoes.
However, if Plawecki does come up with the big hit in the next couple of weeks and if the percentage of base stealers are cut down, does d’Arnaud have to take his starting spot back in the lineup?
That’s something the manager will have to determine, and more so Plawecki does have that challenge now to prove he can handle that role.
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