PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The reviews are in for the first Camp Callaway, and it was a hit.
Rookie Mets manager Mick ey Callaway earned high marks from his players for running an efficient camp. The Mets went 10-18-3 during the exhibition season, but no one cared about that one bit.
The team is healthy for the most part. The Big Four of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Matt Harvey seem locked in. Yoenis Cespedes overcame a wrist problem and is mashing the ball, and even though Michael Conforto will start the season on the disabled list, he’s way ahead of schedule.
“The sky’s the limit,” Harvey said Monday after pitching three innings in an intrasquad game at First Data Field. “The biggest thing is staying healthy, and we all are right now for the most part and we’re going to be really good. I think we’re going to shock a lot of people. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Said Callaway: “I think he’s right. We have the personnel, we have everything in place right now going into the season that we want . . . I think they feel like they have something to prove.”
Before the Mets packed up and headed to New York for Thursday’s season opener against the Cardinals, Callaway reflected on what he learned in his first spring training at the helm.
“Oh, a ton,” the former Indians pitching coach said. “I was able to sit next to our coaches and we had discussion after discussion about this situation, that situation. I feel prepared going in. I’m really excited about Opening Day.”
Callaway said the biggest challenge for him was “making sure that I communicate with everybody. ‘Hey, you’re done; you’re pinch running.’ That was probably the biggest challenge in spring training. Other than that, I think [bench coach] Gary Di Sarcina did a great job of being by my side and really homing in on the things that I need to be thinking about during the game that I probably wouldn’t have thought about otherwise. He was tremendous.”
Callaway’s cool-but-focused demeanor set a good tone for the players. He also didn’t forget to allow them to have fun in what can be a long and at times tedious spring training.
“We’re just playing ball, man,” said Jay Bruce, who was with Callaway in Cleveland last season after getting traded by the Mets. “He expects us to have a good time. This isn’t a boot camp. This isn’t the military. People want to put so much weight on how serious you need to be, how serious this is. At the end of the day, this is a game that you need to have fun playing, and I think that allows everyone to get the best out of themselves.”
Overall, Bruce said: “It was great. It really was. He really put a premium on working efficiently, and I think that everyone really appreciates that. We got our work in. There wasn’t a lot of standing around or down time. He’s very honest. He was very clear about what he wanted, what he expected from us. I think that sets the tone for the season.”
Jose Reyes said Callaway must have learned a few things from Indians manager Terry Francona about how to be the man in charge of not just the pitchers but the whole roster.
“Sometimes spring training can get messed up,” Reyes said. “Like sometimes when you’re going to do something on the field, you don’t know where you’re going. Stuff like that. This one was very well-prepared. It seems like he’s been doing it for 10 years. It’s not the first time for him to be around major-league players. He comes from Cleveland, he sat with Francona. He’ll be fine. He’ll be relaxed. He’s prepared. He’s ready.”