PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — For a first-time manager, Mickey Callaway was mighty bold about his own expectations with the New York Mets.
“The front office has gotten us the players. The coaching staff is the best coaching staff in the big leagues,” he said Tuesday. “If we don’t do something special with the group we have in place, it’s going to be on the leadership. That’s going to be on me.”
With the Mets set to hold their first formal spring-training workout for pitchers and catchers Wednesday, an enthusiastic Callaway laid out his vision for a championship contender in that hint of a Tennessee drawl.
Seated behind a table during his 35-minute news conference, wearing a Mets cap and jersey, Callaway touched on an array of topics, from the team’s new sports-science plan for keeping pitchers healthy to his beliefs in throwing more breaking balls and building a flexible bullpen with no defined closer.
“For me to designate somebody to pitch the ninth and I don’t know what hitters are coming up, seems kind of silly to me,” said Callaway, who replaced 68-year-old Terry Collins, the longest-tenured manager in Mets history. “We’re going to have to be more prepared. We’re going to have to do our homework on every possible bit of information.”
As workers stocked the team store on Willie Mays Drive with spring training shirts that read “Winning Starts Now,” one thing was quickly becoming clear about Callaway’s arrival: The Mets are in for big changes after a 70-92 season.
And not just Jacob deGrom, who already got a haircut and sheared his shaggy locks.
“I can tell that they have expectations for us and everything is going to be a little bit more organized,” right-hander Zack Wheeler said. “They’re going to hold us more accountable, which is fine. We’re grown men, and it’s nice to be held accountable.
“I think it’s time for a change. You know, what’s the definition for insanity — is keep doing the same thing over and over? So I mean, it’s nice for a change and maybe some newer technology and newer ways of thinking and new ways of going about stuff will maybe help us.”
Driven by analytics and modern baseball philosophy, many of Callaway’s unconventional ideas came with him from Cleveland, where last season he completed a fantastic five-year run as pitching coach for the progressive Indians.
Callaway helped Corey Kluber win two Cy Young Awards and, along with manager Terry Franconca, presided over a talented rotation and malleable relief corps that formed the backbone of consecutive AL Central title teams.
Led by All-Star lefty Andrew Miller and fellow relievers Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw, the Indians reached Game 7 of the 2016 World Series and followed with a 102-win season. Callaway said he already sees similarities in a hard-throwing Mets staff that’s been riddled with injuries since carrying the club to an NL pennant in 2015.
“I have been around some pretty good arms and this is the best group of arms and stuff that I’ve ever seen, from top to bottom. It’s really amazing,” he gushed. “I think Cleveland was a spot or a place that had the same-type guys that we do, pitchers that have no egos and just want to win games.”
There’s no question Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland, a mentor to Callaway since they were minor league teammates two decades ago, were hired to repair a frayed and fragile staff that plummeted to 28th in the majors with a 5.01 ERA last season.
Callaway’s first scheduled meeting with the pitchers Wednesday will take place in the weight room.
“That’s how valuable I think their routines are going to be. And we’re going to walk `em through what we expect them to do when they arrive at the ballpark. And that’s the first thing they’re going to hear,” he said. “Holding guys accountable and going through the process and communicating with these guys every day is the thing I’m looking forward to the most being a manager.”
Of course, it’s not only the pitchers who are in his charge. The 42-year-old Callaway has an entire team to run in his first full-time manager job at any level.
“I’m anxious. I’m ready. I’m prepared,” he said.
And while he thinks his pitching background and years of experience preparing scouting reports on opposing lineups will be “invaluable” to Mets hitters, Callaway readily acknowledged a need to rely on his veteran coaches in game situations.
“There’s going to be unforeseen things that I have never dealt with before along the way. And that’s why we hired the coaching staff that we hired. They’re going to have me prepared. I’m going to ask questions. I’m going to lean on them on a daily basis,” he said. “So having a support staff that is on point, prepared and know what they’re doing is going to be huge for me.”
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant not in Chicago Cubs lineup amid trade buzz
CHICAGO — Social media platforms were abuzz after the Chicago Cubs announced their Thursday starting lineup, which did not include stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — although manager David Ross said no one has been traded. At least not yet.
“I had this earmarked for Rizz for a while now,” Ross stated before the Cubs’ series finale against the Cincinnati Reds. “First off-day after the All-Star break. That was normal.
“Looking at the length of the game last night and KB [Bryant] all over the place, and issues with his legs, just made some sense to me.”
Bryant saw his first action of the season at shortstop during Wednesday’s loss after starting the game in left field. He endured a 69-pitch ninth inning and had hamstring problems last week, so Ross decided a day off was needed.
Teams on the verge of a trade sometimes sit the player to keep him from getting injured. Ross was asked directly whether the moves were related to the looming trade deadline.
“They are not,” he said. “They are available off the bench. They’ll get a nice round of applause, I’m sure, when they get in there — if they get in there — to pinch hit. Everyone can hate me or blame me, but we have to take care of these guys. Nobody has been traded yet; let’s keep our heads about us.”
Bryant was drafted by the Cubs in 2013, winning Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons. Rizzo came over in a trade with the San Diego Padres in 2012. Both are considered iconic Cubs after helping break a 108-year championship drought back in 2016.
“I’ve talked to both of them,” Ross said. “They know the situation; it could be their last home game and all that. Everyone is fine with what’s going on.”
Toronto Blue Jays address bullpen issues by acquiring closer Brad Hand from Washington Nationals
Hand is 5-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 21 saves this season.
Hand signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Nats this past offseason. He was coming off another solid season as the closer for the Cleveland Indians in 2020, leading the major leagues with 16 saves, but was a victim of the team’s salary purge heading into 2021.
The Blue Jays have had a multitude of injuries in their bullpen, beginning with the team losing Kirby Yates to Tommy John surgery to start the season.
Adams, 25, is considered the best power hitter in Toronto’s system according to Baseball America. He joins the Nationals after hitting .239 with seven homers, 17 RBIs in 35 games for Triple-A East Buffalo.
Aaron Boone says Joey Gallo will be with New York Yankees on Friday
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All-Star slugger Joey Gallo‘s trade to the New York Yankees from the Texas Rangers was completed Thursday, giving the heavily right-handed Yankees a much-needed powerful lefty bat.
Manager Aaron Boone said he spoke with Gallo on Thursday and “welcomed him to the team.”
“I think we’re a lot better today,” Boone said before the Yankees played Tampa Bay.
Boone said that Gallo will be with the Yankees for Friday’s series opener against the Marlins in Miami.
While he has played right field for Texas, Boone envisions Gallo playing a lot in left for the Yankees, who have Aaron Judge as their regular right fielder.
“We’re excited to add an All-Star,” Boone said.
The Rangers received right-hander Glenn Otto, second baseman Ezequiel Duran, shortstop Josh Smith and second baseman/outfielder Trevor Hauver from New York. Texas also sent pitcher Joely Rodriguez to New York.
New York’s left-handed hitters have struggled this season, ranking last in the majors in average (.197), 28th in home runs (22) and OPS (.633) and 29th in hard-hit rate (33%).
A two-time All-Star, Gallo ranks sixth in the AL this season with 25 home runs, to go with 55 RBIs and a .223 average. He had struggled mightily at the plate since the All-Star break, with no home runs and a .067 average in the 10 games following, before breaking out Tuesday with a three-run shot against the Diamondbacks.
Gallo, 27, is among just eight rostered major leaguers with multiple career 40-homer seasons (2017, 2018).
Gallo is owed $2.2 million from his $6.2 million salary. He is eligible for arbitration next winter and can become a free agent after the 2022 season.
The Yankees began the day 8½ games behind Boston in the AL East and trail Tampa Bay, Oakland and Seattle in the wild-card race for two spots.
Rodriguez, 29, is 1-3 with one save and a 5.93 ERA in 31 relief appearances this season, holding left-handed batters to a .176 average. He is 2-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 81 relief appearances over four seasons with Philadelphia (2016-17) and Texas (2020-21), and he was 3-7 with a 1.85 ERA over 90 relief appearances in 2018-19 for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League.
Duran, 22, hit .290 with 15 doubles, six triples, 12 homers and 48 RBIs this season in 67 games with High-A Hudson Valley.
Hauver, 22, made his professional debut this season with Low-A Tampa, hitting .288 with 17 doubles, nine homers and 49 RBIs in 66 games.
Otto, 25, was 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance with Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.
Smith, 23, hit .324 with 12 doubles, nine homers, 24 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 39 games with Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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