TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Mickey Callaway says his baseball knowledge expanded tremendously during his two seasons as the New York Mets’ manager, and the Los Angeles Angels will benefit from his Queens education as he returns to his familiar role as a pitching coach.
“I just think about the game more globally now than I did,” Callaway said Friday after another early-spring workout at the Angels’ spring complex.
“(As a pitching coach) I was so focused on, ‘OK, let’s get the out. This is how you pitch a guy.’ Now I understand why a manager gets upset when a guy steals a base. I always want our pitchers to be quick, but that was kind of the extent of it. Now I understand how impactful a stolen base is, like truly is. It makes you think more globally about the game, and hopefully that will translate into me being a better leader and coach.”
Those two years in the New York pressure cooker also left Callaway with an excitement about taking a job that’s slightly less stressful. After the Mets fired him, Callaway admits he needed a little time to adjust.
“I had PTSD,” Callaway said with a wide grin that makes it clear he’s joking.
“No. I relaxed. I spent some time with my family, and once I got this job, I started grinding it out and trying to learn who these pitchers are, and what makes them tick.”
Callaway has plenty of work to do with the Angels, who finished 25th in the majors in ERA last season and ninth in walks. Los Angeles’ uniformly poor pitching was the biggest factor in its plummet to 72-90, the franchise’s worst record in the 21st century.
Callaway’s primary solution to the Angels’ problems is one of the simplest in baseball, but he intends to make it stick as he takes charge of new manager Joe Maddon’s staff. Callaway is already known as an exceptional communicator, and he says it’s even easier when the message is simple.
“There’s great stuff on this staff, (but) we have to throw strikes,” Callaway said. “We’re going to try to throw more strikes than anybody else in the league. If we can do that, we’re going to be where we need to be. Our offense, obviously, is going to be very good, so we have to give them a chance to win.”
Callaway isn’t terribly interested just yet in reminiscing about his two years with the Mets, who fired him even though they won 86 games with a strong pitching staff. New York got off to the best start in franchise history and then came on strong late in his final season, finishing 46-25 after the All-Star break, but it wasn’t enough to save his job.
Callaway was a surprising choice for the job in the first place. Sandy Alderson plucked him off Terry Francona’s staff with the Cleveland Indians, who had one of the majors’ most formidable pitching staffs over Callaway’s final four seasons in charge.
And though it ended badly and too soon, Callaway is grateful for his stint with the Mets.
“It’s really just made me grow as a leader, made me grow as a coach,” Callaway said. “There’s a lot of things that a manager has to think about that a pitching coach doesn’t think about. But what it’s going to do is allow me to help out Joe a little bit more. Like, I probably wasn’t helping Tito (Francona) out in a lot of areas that didn’t really occur to me at the time.”
Callaway had only been unemployed for a few weeks when he eagerly accepted Maddon’s invitation to reunite with the Angels.
Maddon was the Angels’ bench coach in 2002 when Callaway joined the team as a right-hander. Callaway pitched well in six starts down the stretch, and he won a World Series ring as part of the franchise’s only championship despite not appearing in any postseason games.
“I’m elated to be back in Anaheim,” Callaway said with a grin. “Obviously have great memories here. Not of me playing, but watching guys. That was really fun.”
Maddon and Callaway were in touch regularly during Callaway’s tenure in New York, and Maddon knew all about Callaway’s work with Cleveland’s pitchers after Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays faced them.
“I thought he did a great job there last year,” Maddon said. “(The Mets) really came on strongly. Mickey is very bright, and I think Mickey analyzes things extremely well. Conversationally with a player, I think he’ll be able to break it down to make it very simple for them, too. There’s so many things he brings to the table, but I think it’s primarily him. He’s got a nice way about him.”
NOTES: Reliever José Quijada joined his new team Friday. He was at home in Venezuela when the Angels claimed him off waivers from Miami on Monday. … Pitching prospect Patrick Sandoval and catcher Jason Castro are at work in Tempe after missing the start of spring training due to the flu.