PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Mickey Callaway was one of the last people Anthony Swarzak spoke to before he was sent down to the minor leagues in 2015.
It wasn’t a fun talk.
“He said there were things I had to get better at,” Swarzak said of Callaway, then the Indians’ pitching coach. “Most of it was in the weight room and really dedicating myself off the field. I really didn’t want to hear it at the time.”
But it doesn’t end there. It can’t. Because on Sunday, Swarzak, 32, was at First Data Field, taking part in spring training with the Mets. Callaway is his manager now and there appear to be exactly zero hard feelings. After all, it was Callaway’s advice that helped lead Swarzak to where he is now: from being the 25th man on the roster to a reliable free-agent signing with a 2.33 ERA in 70 relief appearances and 91 strikeouts in 77 1⁄3 innings last year.
Not that there weren’t a few bumps along the way. After getting sent down by the Indians in 2015, Swarzak started bulking up, dedicating himself to strength training. In 2016, the new and improved Swarzak signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees but compiled a 5.52 ERA in 31 innings for them.
“I felt stronger and I was getting bigger and I didn’t really know how to work with all of that,” he said. “I wasn’t good enough at that time. I’m better now . . . I felt like I had a little more in the tank. I was 29, 30 years old and I was going home and felt like I could throw harder than I was. Every day I would throw harder and harder and I found another gear and here we are. I can throw strikes with it.”
And now he’s back with Callaway. He’s direct, Swarzak said of his new manager. “He knows he doesn’t want to coddle me. He knows he can say whatever he needs to say to me . . . He also knows I’m going to take the ball whenever he needs me to take it.”
Swarzak is pretty direct, too. He thinks the Mets’ bullpen has the ability to be among the best in baseball. And unlike most of the baseball pundits out there, he thinks the Mets have the chance to make it deep into the playoffs. He betrayed as much when he was asked if he was looking forward to playing in the Subway Series against his old team this year. But Swarzak’s mind didn’t go to the two regular-season series the Mets have with the Yankees. It went straight to the World Series.
“Both teams gotta be there,” he said of the Yankees. “I know we will.”