CHICAGO — In their latest attempt to save their sinking season, the Mets fired pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Chuck Hernandez on Thursday, leaving the severely underperforming pitching staff shocked at the scapegoating of a pair of well-respected baseball lifers.
Three coaches were promoted as replacements on an interim basis from the farm system to the major-league staff. Phil Regan, 82, the assistant pitching coordinator, is the new pitching coach. Ricky Bones, the bullpen coach from 2012-18, returns to that role after being demoted at the start of last offseason. He had been the pitching coach for advanced Class A St. Lucie.
And Jeremy Accardo, the pitching coordinator viewed by the front office as something of a rising star, will be the Mets’ “pitching strategist,” a new data- and technology-centric position.
After the shake-up, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen insisted that manager Mickey Callaway is “absolutely not” next to be fired if the Mets don’t turn their season around.
“Mickey has my full vote of confidence,” Van Wagenen said. “He’s our manager and this is a scenario where we wanted to continue to give Mickey the best resources and the best coaching staff to help him achieve our goals.”
Said Callaway: “I take it as a failure on my part. I’m the manager. That’s a tough thing, to lose coaches. No manager wants that under their watch.”
Only one member of Callaway’s original coaching staff is still in the same role: assistant hitting coach Tom Slater. After hitting coach Pat Roessler was fired and bench coach Gary DiSarcina was reassigned to third-base coach last fall, this time it’s the pitching overseers who take the fall.
“That’s how it works,” Jacob deGrom said. “Somebody always takes the blame for something. We didn’t feel like we were performing the way we should, and that goes to us. So we just all want to do a better job.”
Seth Lugo added: “It tells me we got to play better. If we’re playing good, those moves don’t happen.”
Poor pitching has been a significant reason for the Mets’ 35-39 record and fourth-place standing in the NL East heading into their series opener with the Cubs on Thursday. Their 4.67 team ERA ranked 20th in the majors. The rotation-headlining trio of deGrom (3.26 ERA), Noah Syndergaard (4.55 and injured) and Zack Wheeler (4.94) have all taken steps back. The bullpen had a 5.38 ERA, third-worst in the majors.
Van Wagenen declined to specify in which areas Eiland and Hernandez were deemed inadequate, but said that overall Mets pitchers need to be better.
“If you look at our performance, it’s hard to say that we made a change to our coaching staff because we woke up with a new feeling in our stomach,” Van Wagenen said. “Our performance has shown that we can be better. If we have an opportunity to be better with new coaches, then we’re going to do everything in our power to try to give that a chance.”
Jason Vargas, who without Eiland loses perhaps his greatest supporter in the organization, said the firings “definitely caught everybody by surprise.” Lugo and Robert Gsellman separately said they were “shocked,” noting that they felt personally responsible. DeGrom said Eiland personally called him with the news.
“I told him, thank you for everything you did,” deGrom said. “I’m going to miss him. He helped me out quite a bit last year. I’m thankful for the time that I had with him.”
This was Eiland’s second season with the Mets, who fired Dan Warthen after the 2017 season. Eiland is well respected among the Mets pitchers and in 2018 oversaw deGrom’s Cy Young season, as well as a good year from Syndergaard, when healthy, and Wheeler, who took off in the second half.
The Mets’ homegrown pitchers — i.e., most of them — already have a relationship with Regan, who has been with the organization in various roles since 2009. Regan’s pro baseball career began in 1956, when he was a minor-leaguer for the Tigers. He pitched in 13 major-league seasons — making the All-Star team in 1966, when he went 14-1 with a 1.62 ERA — before embarking on a long coaching career. He has been the Orioles’ manager (1995) and the pitching coach for the Cubs (1997-98) and Indians (1999).
“Brilliant pitching coach,” said Lugo, who played under Regan with the 2014 St. Lucie Mets. “He’s one of those guys that he’s going to make you feel comfortable, make you feel like you’re the man. He’s a great guy to be around.”
Analytics were a theme of Van Wagenen’s explanation. Accardo will be for the pitchers what quality-control coach Luis Rojas has been for the position players, helping to digest and translate data into something manageable and meaningful for players. Bones, upon his demotion, “made it a priority” to acquaint himself with modern numbers and technology, Van Wagenen said. And the GM even billed Regan as someone who “has been educating himself on new information and the application of data into coaching techniques.”
“This is a guy who has a track record of being able to coach the game, understand the game,” Van Wagenen said. “And he has the aptitude to blend a new world order with the support of Jeremy and Ricky.”
Born: April 6, 1937 (age: 82 years, 75 days)
MLB Experience: 13 seasons (1960-72)
1995 — Managed Orioles to 71-73 record
1996 — Managed Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque
1997-98 — Cubs pitching coach
1999 — Indians pitching coach
2009-2015 — St. Lucie Mets pitching coach
2016-19 — Mets minor-league assistant pitching coordinator
Claims to Fame
During the 1966 season, when he was Walter Alston’s favorite arm out of the Dodgers’ bullpen, teammate Sandy Koufax nicknamed him “The Vulture” for his knack of earning wins in late-inning relief situations. Regan went 14-1 that season . . . Career record of 96-81 with a 3.84 ERA and 92 saves.
“I take it as a failure on my part. I’m the manager. That’s a tough thing to, lose coaches. No manager wants that under their watch.”
— Mickey Callaway
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