Mets pitching Dan Warthen has changed his mind and will not retire after this season, he told Daily News reporter Kristie Ackert this past weekend.
"I thought this would be my last year," he told Ackert. "I really thought I wanted to retire. I'd have my pitchers all back and they'd be ready to go. But, after this year, I want one more year. I don't want to leave them like this."
The Mets hired Warthen during June, 2008, after Rick Peterson was let go as the team's pitching coach. Prior to joining the Mets, he had been a bullpen coach for the Dodgers, and a minor league instructor and pitching coach for the Tigers, Padres and Mariners.
In 2015, the Mets' starting rotation finished with the fourth-best ERA in baseball (3.43) as they advanced deep in to October. losing to the Royals in the World Series. The next year, despite losing Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz to season-ending injuries, Warthen's starting rotation finished with the third-best ERA in baseball (3.61).
This season, during which deGrom is the only pitcher to start 20 games and Rafael Montero is second in innings pitched, Warthen's rotation fell apart due to injury and sank to 28th in team ERA (5.09) as opponents hit .280 against them.
"He has helped me a lot, he's taught me different grips and approaches," deGrom said of Warthen, according to Ackert. "Even just this year, working through that period where I just couldn't get myself mechanically together, he was there working with me and we eventually figured it out."
In late-June, Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Warthen is not in danger of losing his job.
"He's part of the solution," Alderson said. "He's part of the group of people, including the pitchers, as well as the coaching staff, who are trying to figure out how to get this staff back to where we expected it to be."
Matthew Cerrone (Twitter | Instagram | About Me): Whether he wants to retire or not, the Mets should consider replacing Warthen -- or, at least consider making adjustments to the way things are being done.
That said, don't misunderstand me, I do not believe Warthen is the lone reason for this team's struggles. I acknowledge, based on several conversations with current and former pitchers, that players like Warthen and genuinely enjoy working with him. In fact, the thing I hear most often (with passion) is that he sees things in a pitcher's mechanics and opposing hitter swings that no one else is seeing. And, he has a terrific ability to exploit (or cover) that flaw with an existing strength -- as opposed to forcing unwanted changes or asking the pitcher to learn something new during the season.
I also know Warthen is respected around the game, and -- if fired, and wanting to keep coaching -- he would quickly find a new gig as pitching coach for a different organization.
That said, I do not like how his home-grown pitchers have not adjusted back to the league adjusting to them, in terms of his their pitch-calling and game strategy.
Aug 15, 2016; Warthen against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
For instance, why do nearly all Mets pitchers insist on never throwing inside? Is it Warthen making the call? Is it a lack of an evidence-based (statistical) strategy based on that day's matchups? If they're not doing this, why not? And, if Warthen is making the right call each night and the battery is ignoring him, why are they ignoring him?
The point is, I'm not clear on if this is all Warthen's fault, the pitcher's fault, the constant mechanical adjustments due to injury, or because of the rotating cast of catchers behind the plate, or some combination of everything. But it's a problem and it has to be addressed.
Similarly, there may need to be better communication and awareness about how the team's pitchers prepare in the offseason and how it impacts them on the mound. I think this is central to why so many pitchers are frequently getting injured. It's worth noting this is an MLB problem that is going on with every team, not just the Mets. And, I'm pretty sure the organization started addressing this during the early-summer, but I have no idea how it's going...
The point is, if Warthen wants to return, and Alderson and (whomever the manager will be) wants him back, I'd like to hear he's adaptable and open to change.