When Mets starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud went down with a strained right shoulder on April 25, there was an understandable panic over the state of the Mets' backstops. Kevin Plawecki, who was batting just .176 in his limited opportunities before d’Arnaud’s injury, seemed like the only viable replacement and expectations were low. However, Plawecki has filled in commendably as the everyday catcher.
Plawecki took over for d’Arnaud on April 26, and the early results were mixed; Plawecki got just three hits in six games, but drew four walks and only struck out twice. Once the Mets hit the road though, Plawecki turned it around.
Plawecki played nine of the 11 games on the Mets’ recently-concluded road trip, and recorded a hit in all but one of them; the game in which the Mets were shut out by Clayton Kershaw. Four of Plawecki’s nine hits were doubles, and he hit his first home run of the year on May 9. Plawecki collected five RBIs in those nine road games, boosting his average with runners in scoring position to .333.
“I’m just going up there trying to get good pitches to hit and putting my ‘A’ swing on them,” Plawecki recently told reporters. “I definitely feel comfortable in the box. I’m just going to keep putting good at-bats together, and just keep trying to hit the ball hard.”
Plawecki attributes his recent run of success, in which he’s seen his batting average rise to .227 after Sunday’s contest, to his extended work with hitting coach Kevin Long.
“We just widened out my base and just recently opened my stance up a little bit more,” Plawecki told NJ.com. “It just allows me to see the pitches a lot better and gives me a lot more time to react and recognize pitches. It ultimately gets me in a more consistent hitting position each and every time up to bat and just allows for more consistent swings on the ball.”
“He needed [this streak] to kind of help his psyche out,” Long said. “He was swinging the bat okay, but he wasn’t getting much to show for it. Like any other player, you do need a couple nuggets to kind of let you know you’re doing things right.”
Furthermore, Plawecki has been an upgrade over d’Arnaud from a defensive standpoint. In 13 games, d’Arnaud allowed 14 stolen bases while throwing out only three runners (18 percent), a ratio far below the league average of 32 percent. Plawecki has allowed 13 stolen bases while throwing out six runners in 20 games, which is exactly the league-average.
With no timetable set for d’Arnaud’s return, Plawecki will continue to get opportunities to show he belongs on the major league roster.
“[Players] know this is a huge opportunity to make a difference,” Mets manager Terry Collins recently told the media. “This guy is trying to stay in the major leagues and become an everyday catcher; here’s his chance to show us he can do it.”