Back with 51s, d'Arnaud starts hot

Top Mets prospect doubles twice, scores career-high four runs

By Jonathan Raymond / Special to | April 4, 2013 10:53 PM ET

Travis d'Arnaud may have been traded over the offseason from Toronto to New York, but for now, at least, he hasn't gone anywhere at all.

The Mets' top-ranked prospect opened the season for Triple-A Las Vegas, the same team with which he ended 2012. With the Mets shifting their Triple-A affiliate from Buffalo to the Pacific Coast League, the 24-year-old stayed put.

And on Thursday in Sacramento, d'Arnaud led the 51s to a season-opening 10-5 victory over the River Cats, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, two walks, a career-high four runs scored and an RBI.

"You know, what are the chances of that happening?" d'Arnaud said of his return to Las Vegas. "I'm excited. It's close to home [in Long Beach, Calif.], my family and friends get to come out and watch me play. It's nice to have all that support, makes it more relaxing.

"[The team employees] all welcomed me back with open arms. Everyone here is great, I'm real excited for this year, that's for sure."'s No. 6 overall prospect -- the top catcher on the list -- hit .333/.380/.595 with 16 homers and 52 RBIs in 67 games during an injury-shortened season. That eye-popping production made him the centerpiece for the Mets when they shipped National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to the Blue Jays last December.

In 16 Grapefruit League games with the Mets, d'Arnaud batted .343/.415/.457 with four doubles and four RBIs. It's not hard to imagine his latest stint in Las Vegas being a brief one.

"I think it's just a matter of time [before he gets to the big leagues]," 51s manager Wally Backman said. "He got hurt last year and only played about 70 games at this level, so the organization doesn't want to rush him. But he's an outstanding player, plays hard, plays right. In the short time I've seen him, I've seen he's a very intense player. [He] knows how to handle the pitching staff.

"He's gonna be a very good player when he gets to the Major Leagues, which is probably not a long ways away."

Being the 51s' only veteran of Cashman Field, known as a hitter's haven in the hitter-friendly PCL, d'Arnaud acknowledged he's talked to his pitchers a bit about what they can expect from their new environment.

"[The pitchers] watched everyone take batting practice, they saw how far the ball travels," he said. "Me and Landon [Powell] told them about this field and how far the ball goes. They just know they can't make mistakes, keep the ball down.

"As far as off the field, it's Las Vegas. Everyone's an adult, they can all handle themselves. I'm pretty sure everyone will do all right."

On Thursday, d'Arnaud caught top Mets pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for the second time; the two were a battery just once during Spring Training. He said the duo, billed as integral pieces of the club's future, has developed a solid relationship.

"I caught him down in St. Lucie, feel like we got to know each other pretty well," d'Arnaud added. "Everyone on our team is awesome. It's a really close, loose clubhouse."

Wheeler gave up two runs on three hits and three walks while striking out three but lasted only 3 1/3 innings because he threw 86 pitches.

"I thought he was locating his fastball down in the zone, that helped him out," d'Arnaud said. "He threw a couple [changeups] that were really good. Curveball, slider [were also good]. He was throwing his front side open a little bit. We were trying to tell him after he was done. He'll come out, he's a hard worker, he'll fix everything."

Wilmer Flores, the Mets' No. 7 prospect, went 3-for-3 with a double, a walk and two RBIs.

A's No. 4 prospect Grant Green provided most of the River Cats' offense with a three-run homer in the ninth.

Jonathan Raymond is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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