PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As an aspiring catcher growing up in Southern California, Travis d'Arnaud idolized former Dodgers star Mike Piazza, who went on to build the bulk of his Hall of Fame resume in New York. So when the Mets traded for d'Arnaud prior to last season, the catcher knew he would likely have a chance to meet his idol.
That dream reached another level on Monday, when Piazza reported to Mets camp as a special instructor. Piazza, who has spent the past few years working with the Italian national team during the World Baseball Classic and World Cup play, is scheduled to remain in Port St. Lucie all week, working one on one with d'Arnaud and other catchers.
"It's a dream," d'Arnaud said. "I loved how he hit and I loved how the pitchers loved throwing to him. So I tried to transform that into my game when I was a little kid."
d'Arnaud already profiles as a better defensive catcher than Piazza was as a player, but he struggled offensively during his big league debut last season. To that end, Piazza said he expects to do much of his coaching in the batting cage.
"For me, obviously, I was more of an offensive-oriented catcher," Piazza said. "But as a catcher you still can contribute in many ways to get the confidence of the pitching staff.
"No. 1 is just for [d'Arnaud] to stay healthy -- to take care of himself and be consistent, stay off the roller coaster which the game can be sometimes. You don't have to always go out there and get the big hit. You can go out and catch a good ballgame or block a pitch with the tying or winning run on third -- understanding behind the plate there's a lot you can do."
The two catchers had met before Monday, most notably during last year's Mets Hall of Fame induction at Citi Field. But Piazza's involvement in Mets affairs is a relatively new development. For years after his retirement, Piazza remained mostly away from the team. He recently has made more frequent public appearances, prompting chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon to invite him to camp this spring.
"It's fun to get back in the uniform and be around the clubhouse," Piazza said. "And I feel like I have a lot to teach. Obviously I feel like I got a lot out of my ability when I played. If I could just talk to some young guys and maybe help them advance their careers, it's very rewarding."
No games yet, but plenty of work, for Wright, Murphy
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Just because David Wright and Daniel Murphy are not playing in Grapefruit League games, does not mean their early days in camp have been easy.
Quite the contrary, said Wright, who has spent the past few mornings participating in some of the most intensive spring workouts of his career. While their Mets teammates have busied themselves taking batting practice, shagging fly balls and scooping up grounders in preparation for daily exhibitions, Wright and Murphy have gobbled up 30-40 minutes worth of "game-speed fungoes" each day, throwing full velocity to first base instead of tossing the balls to the side.
Sunday morning, Wright batted in a simulated game against 20-year-old pitching prospect Gabriel Ynoa, who throws in the low- to mid-90s and posted a 2.72 ERA at Class A Savannah last season. He has also been working frequently on defense with third-base coach and former Mets infielder Tim Teufel. Knowing he does not need to keep anything in reserve for a game, Wright has practiced each day to the point of exhaustion.
"That's what's beneficial to me, is getting as close to game speed as I can before the actual games," he said. "In years past, it's almost like I was trying to do it on the fly. This, I think, has been really, really beneficial to me because I've gotten a chance to get really, really good work in and not have to worry about saving some in the tank for a game."
In an effort to prevent the nagging injuries that have sidelined Wright and Murphy in recent years, the Mets decided this spring to hold those two back from early Grapefruit League games. They will join their teammates on the field in mid-March.
"You can't get this type of work if it's just taking ground balls before a game, trying to get ready for the game," Wright said. "So it's been really good."
Davis scratched due to soreness in calves
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Add Ike Davis to the Mets' rapidly growing list of walking wounded.
Davis was a late scratch from Monday's lineup due to soreness in both calves. He said the issue first began affecting him during Sunday's workout, and he did not wish to risk further injury.
"I started getting tight [Sunday] and there was no reason to push it," Davis said, predicting a return to the lineup Tuesday, or Wednesday at the latest.
Injury concerns were prevalent yet mild in other corners of the clubhouse, as well. Outfielder Eric Young Jr., who has yet to play in a Grapefruit League game due to midsection tightness, participated in full baseball activities Monday and expects to make his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday.
Pitcher Jon Niese also threw off a mound Monday for the first time since flying back to New York for an MRI on his sore left shoulder. Shortstops Ruben Tejada and Wilfredo Tovar and starting pitcher Bartolo Colon have all spent time on the sidelines due to nagging injuries as well, though the Mets do not consider any of them serious.
• The Mets have agreed to terms with all 26 of their non-arbitration-eligible players, including d'Arnaud and pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the team announced Monday. Most players with less than three years of big league service time fall into that group, typically signing for close to the league minimum of $500,000.
• The Taylor Hooton Foundation, an organization founded to combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs by American children, on Monday named Mets pitcher Dillon Gee to its inaugural advisory board. In that role, Gee will participate in Hooton Foundation activities around New York City, create public-service announcements and provide input on how best to educate young players about the dangers of steroids.