Ten things to know about new Rays catcher Travis d’Arnaud

For one, the name may sound familiar. For another, he happened to be at the Trop for a pretty big moment in Rays history.
Rays catcher Travis d'Arnaud waits to hit during batting practice before a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Tuesday,  in Miami. [ AP Photo/Lynne Sladky]
Rays catcher Travis d'Arnaud waits to hit during batting practice before a baseball game against the Miami Marlins, Tuesday, in Miami. [ AP Photo/Lynne Sladky]
Published May 16

NEW YORK — There’s an apartment in Manhattan with a rented couch waiting to be picked up, and a couple weeks of mail in the box to be collected.

Funny how this works.

Three weeks ago, Travis d’Arnaud was living there, fully furnished, and playing for the Mets. As he did the previous six years, when he wasn’t hurt anyway.

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Then the Mets made an oddly early decision, after a 2-for-23 start, that he was no longer their guy, not even as a backup to free-agent signee Wilson Ramos, the former Rays catcher. With no apparent trade market, they released d’Arnaud May 3, eating the bulk of his $3.52-million salary.

Two days later he signed with his hometown Dodgers, who had visions of using him as a third catcher and multi-position fill-in. That lasted five days, and one at-bat, and he was on the move again.

That deal, made last Friday for cash and some Andrew Friedman jokes, brought him to the Rays, who were desperate with injuries knocking out their top two catchers, Mike Zunino and Michael Perez.

[ RELATED: Six times the Rays have played at Yankee Stadium while sitting atop the AL East ]

Though it’s not clear how long d’Arnaud will stay, the Rays are happy to have him now, serving as their primary catcher, even more so with rookie Anthony Bemboom spraining his left knee Wednesday and headed to the injured list.

All of which explains how d’Arnaud, 30, ended up back in New York this weekend, wrapping up loose ends at the apartment around the series with the Yankees.

“All our stuff is out except the couch,’’ he said. “I’ll go to get the mail, and that’s basically it.’’

Here’s 10 things to know about him:

1. Family affair

Travis d'Arnaud's brother, Chase, currently plays for the Texas Rangers' Triple-A team.  [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]
Travis d'Arnaud's brother, Chase, currently plays for the Texas Rangers' Triple-A team. [AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki]

D’Arnaud has an older brother, Chase, who has played parts of seven seasons in the majors as a utility infielder, mostly with the Pirates and Braves, and is currently with Texas’ Triple-A team. “It’s really cool,’’ Travis d’Arnaud said. “Not bad for a dad who just wanted to coach his sons in Little League, and we both turned out to be big leaguers. We played with each other only once in Little League, when he was 12 and I was 10. We went to different high schools, and he went to college and I didn’t. We played in a couple all-star games coming up, but we haven’t played together all that much. We have played against each other a few times.’’

2. Trading up

Travis d'Arnaud was once part of a deal involving Hall-of-Fame pitcher Roy Halladay. [AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File]
Travis d'Arnaud was once part of a deal involving Hall-of-Fame pitcher Roy Halladay. [AP Photo/Chris Szagola, File]

Though this was a minor trade, d’Arnaud was involved in a couple of big deals involving Cy Young award winners. A first-round pick by the Phillies in 2007, he was dealt 2 ½ years later to the Blue Jays as part of the return for Roy Halladay. Three years later he was traded to the Mets with pitcher Noah Syndergaard in a seven-player deal featuring R.A. Dickey.

3. Happy to be here

The opportunity to play for a team as good as the Rays was a pleasant surprise for Travis d'Arnaud, left. [ALLIE GOULDING  |   Times]
The opportunity to play for a team as good as the Rays was a pleasant surprise for Travis d'Arnaud, left. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]

The chance to play, and for a team as good as the Rays, was an unexpected break, so d’Arnaud insists he isn’t stressing about impressing or how long he stays. If he does well, it’s not out of the question the Rays could keep him around when all the catchers are healthy and send Michael Perez to the minors. “It’s day to day, man,’’ he said. “Trying to help this team get to where everybody – players, coaches, staff, freaking everybody – wants to get to. Just trying to win every single day that I’m in there to help contribute.”

4. New York state of mind

Travis d'Arnaud had only good things to say about his time with the Mets. [AP Photo/Jeff Roberson]
Travis d'Arnaud had only good things to say about his time with the Mets. [AP Photo/Jeff Roberson]

Though his tenure didn’t end well, d’Arnaud had only good things to say about his time with the Mets, including the 2015-16 playoff runs. “I had a blast over there,’’ he said. “I have a lot of good memories. They’re the big-league team I first came up with and had success there, especially with the teams in 2015 and ’16.’’

5. Oh, the pain

Injuries have been an issue throughout Travis d'Arnaud's career. [ALLIE GOULDING  |   Times]
Injuries have been an issue throughout Travis d'Arnaud's career. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]

Injuries have been an issue throughout his career, most severely last year when four games in he tore up his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery, costing him the rest of the season and limited him a week into this one. Before that, he sustained a concussion, broken finger and foot, elbow and rotator cuff strains, bruised wrist, bone chip in his elbow and left knee ligament tear.

6. A Trop drop-in

Travis d'Arnaud was a witness to Evan Longoria's Game 162 home run.    [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]
Travis d'Arnaud was a witness to Evan Longoria's Game 162 home run. [JAMES BORCHUCK, Times]

D’Arnaud was coincidentally a witness to one of the greatest moments in Rays history. Working out in Dunedin after the 2011 minor-league season prepping to play for Team USA in Panama, he went down to the Trop for Game 162 against the Yankees and saw Evan Longoria hit a pretty memorable home run.

7. Rolling sevens

Travis d'Arnaud, right, considers No. 7 his favorite number. [Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]
Travis d'Arnaud, right, considers No. 7 his favorite number. [Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]

He considers 7 his favorite number, and tries to incorporate that into his uniform whenever possible. He wore No. 7 for a couple years with the Mets, 72 with the Dodgers, 37 with the Rays.

8. Like, really, dude

Travis d'Arnaud (37) shakes hands with relief pitcher Diego Castillo after the Rays defeated the Marlins, 1-0, Wednesday in Miami. [AP Photo/Lynne Sladky]
Travis d'Arnaud (37) shakes hands with relief pitcher Diego Castillo after the Rays defeated the Marlins, 1-0, Wednesday in Miami. [AP Photo/Lynne Sladky]

D’Arnaud definitely shows some of his SoCal roots, born, raised and still living in Long Beach, at times. In 2016, he made the trek to spring training in Port St. Lucie in an RV, stopping along the way to see the Grand Canyon; Austin, Texas; and New Orleans. His nickname, somewhat functional — “Lil d.” Also, a little bit in how he talks: “I’m trying to mesh in as much as I can and try to keep this mojo going and try to win some games.’’

9. Location, location, location

Travis d'Arnaud's biggest challenge behind the plate has been learning how to set up each pitcher on the Rays' staff. [AP Photo/Lynne Sladky]
Travis d'Arnaud's biggest challenge behind the plate has been learning how to set up each pitcher on the Rays' staff. [AP Photo/Lynne Sladky]

D’Arnaud has plenty of work to do in learning, leading and catching the Rays’ dynamic pitching staff. The biggest challenge has been somewhat technical — how to set up for each pitcher, in terms of high or low, and in relation to the plate. “Knowing where to set up with these pitchers is big,’’ he said. “They became comfortable with (Perez and Zunino) since spring training started. So I think that’s the biggest thing so they are able to transition to a new catcher easily.’’

10. Accolades and achievements

Travis d'Arnaud was named to the 2014 Topps Rookie All-Star team. [AP Photo/Chris O'Meara]
Travis d'Arnaud was named to the 2014 Topps Rookie All-Star team. [AP Photo/Chris O'Meara]

D’Arnaud was named to the 2014 Topps Rookie All-Star team, hitting .242 with 13 homers and 41 RBI. … Has a career high 16 homers and 57 RBIs in 2017, playing in 112 games. …. Hit the first postseason home run at Citi Field in the 2015 NLDS. ... Is considered a good pitch framer. …. In addition to catcher, has played second and third base in the majors.

Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.

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