It has been eight years since someone other than Terry Collins directed a spring training for the Mets in Port St. Lucie. In 2018, there will be a new sheriff in town intending to make a few changes...
In what will be his first camp as a big-league manager, and first with the Mets, new manager Mickey Callaway told NY Post reporter Kevin Kernan that the team will hold shorter workouts with the goal of getting the same work done in less time.
"We started doing that in Cleveland about five years ago,'' Callaway told Kernan. "Before, guys were sitting around for 15 minutes before their next station. They're sitting there talking and guys were getting hurt. ... I want to get on and off the field. You can't have standing around; that leads to injuries.''
Callaway told Kernan to also expect the following changes...
- Bench coach Gary DiSarcina will organize this year's camp. Prior to joining the Mets this winter, the former big-league infielder held coaching positions alongside Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Red Sox manager John Farrell.
- No more than four pitchers will throw at one time when on the six-mound bullpen at the front of camp or the 10-mound bullpen at the back of camp. In previous seasons, pitchers often occupied every mound...
- Callaway only wants his team on field between 10:00 and 11:15 a.m.
Change is good. In a tactical sense, Callaway will be different than Collins, I'm sure...
I can't speak to whether the above adjustments will help or hurt or have zero impact, because I know nothing about taking part in a big-league spring training. However, I do have eyes and ears, and I know what I've seen during the last two springs, which was essentially a camp run by veteran players.
There was only a loose schedule set by the coaching staff last season, according to players I talked with last February. In some case, this frustrated players. In other cases, it didn't. There was a lot of running from field to field, guys doing one thing one day, but doing something else the next day. It looked like organized chaos, which worked fine in 2015, but not so much in 2017. Frankly, it probably doesn't matter all that much, since most veteran players will say the goal of spring training is to develop a rhythm and camaraderie with teammates. Of course, if how the camp is run can prevent injury, physical adjustments will be a welcomed change.
That said, I expect Callaway's pragmatic and information-based strategy, new voice and smooth communication style to have a bigger impact on his players than any tweak of a spreadsheet or schedule.
During his introductory press conference at Citi Field in October, Callaway repeatedly talked about the importance of creating a new team culture, which he hopes will also spread to the team's fans and traveling media.
I'm sure Callaway will be asked and will talk more specifically about this to reporters when he starts giving official press conferences after each day's workouts. However, based on what he's already said, it's clear that constant communication, "personal responsibility," hard work, and being both physically and mentally prepared, will all be things he is pushing. I also expect we'll hear a lot about "sacrifice," and doing whatever is necessary to win. "Information" will also be part of the equation, especially as it relates to his players understanding the logic and research behind his decisions.
I love hearing all of the above. It's perfect for this roster and the current state of baseball.
Thankfully, Mickey will be able to lean on a terrific group of coaches, including new bench coach Gary DiSarcina, new pitching coach Dave Eiland, hitting coach Pat Roessler (and his assistant, Tom Slater), third base coach Glenn Sherlock, new first base coach Ruben Amaro, Jr., bullpen coach Ricky Bones.
In particular, I hope to see a lot from DiSarcina, who grew up in New England and was a really good shortstop during his prime in the mid-90s. He went on to have noteworthy success as a minor league manager and still wants to land a big-league job one day. In addition to working the bench, he's worked in Boston's player development under Theo Epstein. He understands the reality of working in a major media market, not just as a player and coach, but also in front of the camera as a host for NESN. He's going to be a major asset...
"Gary is terrific with our players. He listens to them," a Red Sox source told me. "He understands all facets, from what it takes to build a team, to what it takes to turn a double play, play through pain, or make a decision about what relief pitcher to use that day in that situation. He'll be a valuable asset to any organization, regardless of his role."
As I said, I like this group. It's a mostly young, diverse staff, with a lot of experience, yet no one personality that should overshadow the new manager. However, to truly create a culture shift, Callaway is going to need a strong group of player lieutenants checking in with teammates, reporting back to coaches and helping to carry out their collective message in words and action.
Technically, David Wright is still the team's Captain. The majority of players -- young and old -- in camp have stood next to him. However, only a few have taken the field by his side. There will be only six players in camp that were with the team the last time Wright played more than 40 games in a season. Wright will be a factor, based on legacy, but his lack of presence on field will reduce his ability to lead in the way Callaway is going to need from his veterans.
Instead, I expect Callaway to lean heavily on Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes, and Jay Bruce.
Last summer, the Mets traded Bruce to the Indians, where Callaway was pitching coach. Bruce told reporters in January that Callaway being named Mets manager played a major factor in him returning to the Mets.
"Bruce didn't just help hitters, he spent a ton of time with deGrom and Noah Syndergaard in the year he was with them. He spent time with Jeurys Familia and tons of other players," Mets reporter Rich Coutinho said during January's Queens Baseball Convention. "Bruce is as big of a leader in that clubhouse now as anybody that has been with the Mets in the last two or three years and I think you're really going to see that manifest itself this coming season."
According to Kernan, Callaway has already made an effort to spend time with Cespedes, be it walking around First Data Field or going to dinner together in Port St. Lucie.
In deGrom, I've heard Callaway sees a potential leader-by-example for the pitching staff, like Corey Kluber did for him in Cleveland. DeGrom is 29 years old with 45 career wins under his belt. Kluber is 31 with 76 wins.
In case you missed it...
Mets pitchers and catchers are required to report to Spring Training by Feb. 12, with position players reporting by Feb. 17. The first full workout for pitchers and catchers will be Feb. 14, with the first full squad workout taking place on Feb. 19. Callaway's first press conference will be Feb. 13.
The team opens their 2018 Spring Training Grapefruit League schedule on Friday, Feb. 23 against the Braves at 1:10 p.m. at First Data Field in Port St. Lucie, FL...
In the span of five weeks, they'll play the 2017 World Series champion Astros seven times, including four games in Port St. Lucie; they'll play the Marlins and Nationals each six times; the Cardinals four times; and the Orioles, Tigers, and Braves each two times...
The Mets open the regular season on March 29 against the Cardinals at Citi Field.
Nine minor leaguers have been invited to the team's major league spring training. Here are the six players, including Tim Tebow, that I'm looking forward to seeing >> Read more.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...