John Buck jumped out of his crouch and fired a throw from behind the plate. The ball, on a line, exploded past bench coach Bob Geren, who played the role of pitcher. Travis d'Arnaud, standing equidistant from second base and the mound, was on the receiving end to apply the slap tag.

It was a routine spring training catcher drill four days before pitchers and catchers are even to report for the 2013 season. It is also how the Mets brass hopes the starting catcher baton will be passed on. From Buck to d'Arnaud. Seamlessly.

D'Arnaud was the prized commodity in the trade that sent Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and the team's previous catching duo, Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas, to the Blue Jays in December. He is the top prospect, the catcher of the future. But he won't be the catcher the Mets acquired in that exchange who is behind the plate on Opening Day. That will be Buck, the self-described "redneck from Utah."

"I'm happy to be a Met," Buck, 32, said. "I'm excited about it. I think there's a lot of good opportunity for me here to play every day and also have a big impact on the young pitching staff, on a team that is rebuilding to hopefully build toward a rich tradition."

This time last year, rebuilding wasn't on Buck's mind. He was on a loaded, rebranded Miami Marlins squad set to open an amusement park that happened to incorporate a baseball field after an overambitious offseason spending spree.

It quickly fell apart. By midseason, the fire sale had begun. Set to make $6 million again in 2013 after his worst season at the plate – he posted a career-low .644 OPS in 2012 – he saw the writing on the wall. In November he was shipped to Toronto along with four other major-leaguers, including former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. A month later he crossed the border again, landing in Queens when it became apparent he wouldn't play every day as a Blue Jay and the Mets would need a replacement for Thole, whom the Blue Jays requested to catch for the knuckleballer Dickey.