PHOENIX -- Rob Johnson joined the Mets on Thursday in part because they want some offense from their backup catcher. Mike Nickeas wasn't hitting. Johnson might.
But a significant part of why the Mets recalled Johnson prior to their series opener at Chase Field was because of his history with highly regarded prospect Matt Harvey, who made his big league debut against the D-backs. The batterymates spent much of this season together at Triple-A Buffalo, where Harvey counted Johnson among his primary mentors.
"A lot of it had to do with Harvey," Collins said of the transaction that resulted in Nickeas' demotion. "We thought Rob would be the guy to catch him."
That will not necessarily be the case going forward, as Harvey, 23, grows accustomed to pitching in the big leagues. But for the right-hander's debut, the Mets wanted to make sure the atmosphere around him was as comfortable as possible.
That meant waiting to use Harvey until the start of their West Coast swing, allowing him to make his first three starts on the road in front of fewer expectant Mets fans. It meant drawing up plans to remove Harvey from Thursday's game on a high note, if at all possible. And it meant pairing Harvey with Johnson, one of his mentors.
A six-year, part-time big leaguer who joked Thursday that he is "not Crash Davis," Johnson hit .313 during a brief stint with the Mets earlier this year. But for Johnson, offense is secondary compared to his relationship with Harvey.
"I feel like we've pretty much been on the same page for the most part," Johnson said. "Whether he gives up hits, throws balls, gives up a homer or strikes somebody out, we still have to continue to work on his development."