Phil Regan, a 30-year veteran of coaching winter ball in Latin America, cut short his stay in the Dominican Republic this year for the same reason so much is different this year: the coronavirus pandemic.
Initially, Regan, 83, was as gung-ho as ever about getting to work. If the Dominican Winter League was playing, he wanted to be there, serving as the pitching coach for Toros Del Este — Bulls of the East. But when six players on his team tested positive for COVID-19 within the past week, he decided to leave.
The Mets’ senior adviser of pitching development was due to return to his home in Port St. Lucie on Sunday, he said.
"[After] the first three, I said I will still stay here," said Regan, who intended to work remotely. "But two days later, we had three more test positive."
Among those on the Toros’ motley crew of a roster: Yankees righthander Domingo German, Mets catcher Bruce Maxwell and former Mets closer Jenrry Mejia.
Entering play this weekend, German had allowed one run in nine innings (1.00 ERA) in two outings. On Opening Day, he tossed four innings in the team’s no-hitter — the first in a season opener in the league’s history, Regan said. Suspended for 2020 because he violated MLB’s domestic violence policy, German had not pitched in about 14 months.
"He started that game and he went four innings and he looked great," said Regan, who isn’t quite fluent in Spanish but speaks enough to get by. "He’s throwing the ball really, really well. Sharp breaking ball, good fastball [96-97 mph]. He looks really good."
Maxwell, who this month agreed to return to the Mets on a minor-league deal, caught the game.
Mejia, 31, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2015. He was reinstated from a purported lifetime ban — punishment for three failed performance-enhancing drug tests — by MLB in 2018 and still is trying to keep the dream alive.
"Mejia is throwing this year better than I’ve seen him in the past," Regan said. "He doesn’t have the fastball he used to have, but he’s still [92-94 mph] with a great slider and great changeup."