Mickey Callaway, who spent the last five seasons as pitching coach of the Indians, will be named the 21st manager in Mets history, sources confirmed Sunday. Though terms were not announced officially, the 42-year-old will receive a three-year deal.
Callaway’s hiring represents a major shift for the Mets. Former manager Terry Collins did not have a pitching background and left many pitching decisions in the hands of pitching coach Dan Warthen, who also was not retained following a disappointing 70-92 season.
The Mets’ hopes for a bounce-back season remain tied to the health and effectiveness of their pitching, and Callaway has drawn high marks for his work with the Indians, where Corey Kluber flourished into a Cy Young Award winner under his tutelage. Calloway takes over after establishing himself as one of the game’s top pitching coaches, with a reputation for smarts and strong communication skills with players.
“Those are definitely two of his best traits,” said one person who has worked with Callaway. “He really knows the game and how to use the analytics and more of the traditional stuff together. Always seems to have a good feel of where the players are at.”
By the end of Collins’ tenure, his communication with both the front office and the clubhouse had eroded, and team officials griped about his management of the bullpen. Callaway represents a chance to move past some of those issues.
He inherits a team with a pitching staff led by Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, and a lineup anchored by Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto.
When the Indians were in the World Series last year, Callaway received significant exposure and appeared comfortable with the kind of increased media scrutiny he’ll face in New York. By working under manager Terry Francona, Callaway also received a valuable apprenticeship. Francona has raved publicly about Callaway, who has been regarded within the industry as a managerial candidate even though he’s never managed. But Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said he’d be open to candidates with little managing experience.
Callaway may have had the lowest profile of those he beat out for the job, including Mets hitting coach Kevin Long, Mariners bench coach Manny Acta and White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing. Alex Cora, who also interviewed with the Mets, was named Red Sox manager Sunday. Of the group, only Acta had managerial experience, with the Nationals and Indians. McEwing spent part of his big-league career with the Mets. Long, who was viewed as an early front-runner, was the hitting coach for star-studded Yankees lineups.
Long’s contract expires at the end of the month, and it’s unclear whether he’ll return. He is highly respected and would be sought after by other clubs as a hitting coach.
Collins, whose contract was not renewed, never received more than a two-year deal from the Mets, even though he managed them for seven seasons, a club record. Giving Callaway a three-year deal is a show of commitment for a franchise that needed a fresh voice in the manager’s office. In Collins, 68, the Mets had the oldest manager in baseball. In Callaway, they will have one of the youngest.
Chosen in the seventh round of the 1996 draft by the Rays, Callaway pitched in the big leagues for parts of five seasons with Tampa Bay, Texas and Anaheim, compiling a 4-11 mark with a 6.23 ERA in 40 games. He pitched with the Angels in 2002, when they won the World Series. His 14-year playing career ended in 2009 after stints in Korea and Taiwan.
Callaway began coaching in the Indians’ minor-league system in 2010 and climbed the ladder, taking over as their big-league pitching coach in 2013. In that time, the Indians have grown into a perennial contender. They led MLB this season with a 3.30 ERA, and were first in strikeouts (1,614) for the fourth consecutive season.
Age: 42 (born May 13, 1975)
Hometown: Memphis, Tenn.
Personal: Married to Anna, with two daughters, Catherine and Madeline.
As a Player: Gatorade Tennessee High School player of the year in 1992, the same year he was on Team USA at the Goodwill Games . . . Pitched at University of Mississippi . . . Drafted in seventh round of 1996 draft by Tampa Bay Rays . . . Made MLB debut in 1999 . . . Pitched for three organizations (Rays, Rangers, Angels), compiling 4-11 record with 6.27 ERA in 40 games . . . Later pitched in Korea (2005-2007) and Taiwan (2008).
As a Coach: Interim coach at Texas A&M International in 2008 . . . Made coaching debut for Indians in 2010 as pitching coach for Lake County . . . Promoted to pitching coach in 2011 for Kinston . . . Minor-league pitching coordinator in 2012 before becoming Indians pitching coach in 2013.