When Anthony Swarzak reports to spring training on Feb. 12, he’ll see a familiar face: new Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who was Swarzak’s pitching coach in 2015 in Cleveland.
The Mets announced their report dates for spring training on Thursday and also introduced their biggest free-agent acquisition so far of the offseason when Swarzak participated in a conference call with reporters.
Swarzak credited Callaway with helping him go from journeyman to someone the Mets thought merited a two-year, $14-million contract.
The Mets, who are planning to cut their 2018 payroll, are instead banking on Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland to work their magic with Swarzak and the returning pitching staff.
“When I was in Cleveland, the day I got sent down, Mickey was telling me he really liked me, but I had to get stronger,” said Swarzak, 32, who went a combined 6-4 with a 2.33 ERA and two saves with the White Sox and Brewers last season. “At the time, I don’t know if I wanted to hear that, but I know I went home that offseason and dedicated myself to the gym after the 2015 season.”
Swarzak’s fastball velocity increased from the low 90s to the mid-90s after he followed Callaway’s advice.
“I kind of got backed into a corner,” Swarzak said. “I was 30 years old and had to make a change. In high school, I threw all four-seamers, and I actually did that for my first few years in the minor leagues and I did pretty well. I just kind of went back to that and I think in turn the ball starting getting more ride in the zone and then I learned how to repeat that.”
Swarzak spent 2016 with the Yankees and their Triple-A club. He appeared in 26 games for the Yankees and went 1-2 with a 5.52 ERA.
“2016 was a little transition year in New York, I think,” Swarzak said. “Last year I kind of took off. Hopefully we’re going to get back on the ‘domination train,’ as we like to call it.”
Swarzak said he didn’t speak with Callaway during the free- agent process but is looking forward to working with the pitching coach-turned-manager in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Position players will report Feb. 17 and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 19.
“I love the guy,” Swarzak said of Callaway. “He’s a straight shooter. In this game of baseball, as a player that’s all I ask for. That’s really what he did with me in 2015 . . . Here we are three years later and I’ve been working on all this different stuff and it all just kind of clicked.”
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