1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Rays

How Travis d’Arnaud has emerged as an unlikely star for Rays

Released by the Mets, given a brief look by Dodgers, d’Arnaud had earned a place in Rays lineup, and now their history.
Tampa Bay Rays' third base coach Rodney Linares (27) slaps hands with Travis d'Arnaud who runs the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Monday, July 15, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Tampa Bay Rays' third base coach Rodney Linares (27) slaps hands with Travis d'Arnaud who runs the bases after hitting a solo home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Yankees, Monday, July 15, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Published Jul. 16
Updated Jul. 16

NEW YORK — Travis d’Arnaud didn’t know what to expect when he was acquired suddenly by the catcher-desperate Rays in mid-May, jumped on a red-eye flight from LA and immediately started working feverishly just to try to fit in.

Certainly not to earn a place in Rays history by keying one of their most dramatic regular-season wins with one of the most prolific offensive nights, the last of his three homers resulting in 5-4 stunner over the Yankees.

Rays radio man Andy Freed referenced the iconic Dan Johnson home run against the Red Sox in September 2008 race, tweeting after Monday’s game he “Can’t think of a bigger, more shocking regular season road win” since then.

Also, that d’Arnaud would again be the talk of the town that had been home when he played for the Mets, and splashed across the back pages.

“FREAKING AMAZIN’” screamed the Daily News, while the New York Post went with “d’ARNOOO!"

Related: RELATED: Ten things to know about Travis d’Arnaud and the Rays’ thrilling win over Yankees

D’Arnaud called it his “coolest night ever," and that may have been an understatement.

For a guy who was released by the Mets and signed by the Dodgers as something of a flyer before being dealt to the Rays (for the bargain price of $100,000), d’Arnaud has certainly taken advantage of the opportunity.

The three homers were the most he’s hit in any game at any level, and matched the most by a Rays player, joining Evan Longoria (who he watched growing up in the Long Beach, Calif., area), B.J. Upton and Jonny Gomes.

Doing it at this point of the season, with the Rays going into the showdown series trailing the AL East leading Yankees by six games, and on the stage of a raucous Yankee Stadium showed something as well.

“He’s played in this environment," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “We’ve got a lot of guys who haven’t. He was fortunate to play over there with the Mets – a lot of big games, a lot of fans, bright lights. That certainly has got to play a factor when he’s gotten some of these big opportunities to come through."

D’Arnaud also hit a walkoff homer to beat the Yankees at the Trop on July 6, and said “it’s really exciting" to beat them again, but he didn’t want to make any more of it than that.

Related: MORE RAYS: No matter what happens in the Bronx, Rays are on a crazy crusade

He’s more focused on continuing to play well for the Rays, having earned more playing time and a more significant spot in the order for good reason. Adding Monday’s three homers and five RBIs, he has now hit in nine straight games, with a .444 average (16-for-36), 11 runs, five homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.429 OPS. Overall in 39 games for the Rays, he is hitting .282 with nine homers, 26 RBIs and an .884 OPS.

Cash offered a couple reasons for the resurgence, specifically noting the impact hitting coach Chad Mottola has had.

“It’s probably a little bit of everything," Cash said. “I know him and Chad have worked really hard. They have a relationship, they had a relationship years ago in Toronto when Travis was coming up before he got traded to the Mets and they rekindled that. That helps.

“I think confidence helps. You have success you’re going to get some confidence. And he’s made the most of his playing time. It’s kind of all come together at the right time for him."

There’s also a comfort factor, as d’Arnaud, 30, had to get re-acclimated after missing most of 2018 due to Tommy John elbow surgery, and adjusted to his new team in a new league.

What made it click now?

“Who knows," d’Arnaud said. “I know after 50 at-bats I started feeling more comfortable. I don’t know why, but that was the number. As far as catching, right when I came over here I felt comfortable. We’ve got a great pitching coach in (Kyle Snyder). Cash has been great. (Field coordinator/catching coach Paul Hoover) has been great.

“Everyone’s been great in helping me get back to the player I know I can be."

The Rays will take it.

Even better against the Yankees.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (20), right, and Tampa Bay Rays catcher Travis d'Arnaud (37) walk back to the dugout after the first inning in Game 5 of the American League Division Series Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019 in Houston. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    The cheating scandal and sign-stealing investigation will be a popular topic during this week’s winter meetings.
  2. Steven Souza Jr. hit 30 home runs for the Rays in the 2017 season while improving his defense and baserunning, but hit only .239. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Talented and entertaining outfielder is a free agent after being non-tendered by D-backs, and Rays do need some help.
  3. Could a reunion with outfielder Steven Souza Jr., shown during a 2016 game, be possible for the Rays?
    What they’ve done so far, what they’re looking to do, Hall of Fame possibilities, and rumblings.
  4. GM Erik Neander spoke Thursday about the challenges of making the Rays better. [MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Trading Tommy Pham created some financial flexibility heading to winter meetings but the challenge remains.
  5. Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Tommy Pham (29) celebrates inherent dug out after hitting a two run homer in the third inning against the Toronto Blue Jays, September 27, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario. [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    Pham said he enjoyed the team Rays had, expected to be pushing with them for a 2020 World Series championship.
  6. Rays fans grew accustomed to scenes such as this last season. Tommy Pham got thrown out on the bases 20 times, which was third-most in the majors. It was also part of a disturbing trend. He was also thrown out 15 times in 2017 and 18 in 2018. DIRK SHADD | Times Photo [DIRK SHADD  |  Times]
    John Romano | Deciphering Tampa Bay’s offseason moves feels like playing 3D chess. You cannot judge their trades simply by the stats on the back of a baseball card.
  7. San Diego Padres' Hunter Renfroe bats against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso) [RALPH FRESO  |  AP]
    Trade with Padres also yields Rays touted prospect Xavier Edwards, costs them Jake Cronenworth.
  8. In this Dec. 6, 2013, file photo, Yankees GM Brian Cashman rappels down One Landmark Square during a charity event in Stamford, Conn. While Cashman was descending the Landmark Building in Stamford on Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, in preparation for a holiday celebration this weekend, he came across a message taped to a 10th-floor window from a fan: Please sign Gerrit Cole. [DRU NADLER  |  AP]
    New York’s general manager, who met with the prized free agent pitcher on Tuesday, says the sign was taped to a 10th-floor window of the 22-story building in Connecticut.
  9. The post of Blake Snell's reaction to the trade was popular on Twitter Friday. [Twitter]
    Snell said his comments about Xavier Edwards captured on the Twitch gaming stream weren’t meant to be disrespectful.
  10. San Diego Padres' Hunter Renfroe is congratulated in the dugout after hitting a home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 10. [ORLANDO RAMIREZ  |  AP]
    Powerful outfielder, prospect are return in deal that sent Tommy Pham and prospect Jake Cronenworth to San Diego.