As the Indians regroup after an early exit in the playoffs, they’ll be looking for someone to lead their elite pitching staff. Mickey Callaway has been hired as the manager of the New York Mets.
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says it’s an unlikely leap for a pitching coach with no managerial experience.
When you think about Indians pitching, names like Corey Kluber and Trevor Baurer come to mind. You don’t hear much about their coach. He's the guy you only see when he's visiting the mound when a pitcher is struggling during a game.
"You think, 'OK, well there's all kinds of pitching coaches.' But it turned out, there aren't a lot like Mickey Callaway," Pluto says.
This season, Callaway's pitching staff led the big leagues in ERA and shutouts, while setting an MLB record for strikeouts this year. And the Indians have led the American League in strikeouts each of the past four years.
A quick rise
It was a quick rise for Callaway, 42. He pitched for three different major league teams from 1999 to 2004, but spent most of his 13 years playing in the minors. He pitched for three years in Korea and spent one year playing in Mexico.
In 2010, he was hired as the Indians' Class A Lake County pitching coach.
"It was an entry level job. He had some friends with the Indians. But when they hired him, I had to look him up," Pluto says.
In 2013, the then new Indians Manager Terry Francona saw something special in Callaway and hired him. "Usually when these guys (new managers) come in, he has a pitching coach that he's worked with before or he wants a guy who has worked on the big-league level."
"By year three, Francona was telling [us journalists] that Callaway may be the best pitching coach he's ever worked with."
Leaping from pitching coach to manager
After narrowing a field of more than 35 candidates to six, the New York Mets conducted a first round of interviews for a new manager. A second round was scheduled, but it never happened. They hired Callaway.
"They were so taken with him," Pluto says. Still, he says, it's a risky hire. Callaway has no managerial experience and it's rare for former pitchers to transition to managers because some position players are going to be skeptical.
"It shows how baseball is suddenly valuing a pitching coach -- that they want him to run the New York Mets in the largest media market. He's never managed a game anywhere. Welcome to New York."
A new elite pitching coach
Meanwhile, Pluto says the Indians have to get another elite pitching coach.
"Some of the analytics said this has been the best pitching staff in the last 40 years."
Pluto says they could hire bullpen coach Jason Bere and, "I wouldn't be surprised if they hired someone that maybe isn't a household name again, because they aren't afraid to do that."