Phil Regan: A Mets Pitching Asset

phil reganA cadre of young Met pitching prospects has Met fans dreaming better days are coming to Citi Field. In recent years the young arms have come in waves and if only a few can stick it shouldn’t be long before the Mets are relevant again.

When you read about the Mets youthful pitching corp, one thing almost always surfaces, one thing held in common by all the aspiring Met pitchers; universal respect and acclaim for Port St. Lucie pitching coach, Phil Regan.

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years. The soon to be 77 year old Regan has been blessed with both longevity in years, years with plenty of energy and life.

Phil Regan’s baseball career in long, unique, and varied. For 13 seasons, Regan pitched in the major leagues. During his playing days, Regan starred on the mound in both the starting rotation and in the bullpen, an added asset when working with young pitching prospects. A starter his first six major league seasons, Regan pitched nearly 200 innings and started 27 times for the Tigers when he won 15 games in 1963. Regan won 36 games and lost 25 for the Tigers over a three year stretch from 1961 through the 1963 campaign.

After a trade to the Dodgers in 1966, Regan was shifted to the bullpen where he went 14-1 with a 1.62 ERA and led the National League in saves. Regan made the ’66 All-Star team and was the Comeback Player of the Year. Dodger great Sandy Koufax nicknamed Regan “The Vulture” due to his uncanny ability to swoop into a game in the late innings with the Dodgers tied or trailing and come away with a victory.

The Dodger right-hander split the 1968 season between the Dodgers and Cubs winning 12 games as the NL saves leader for the second time. Regan won 12 games and saved 17 as the Cubs battled the Mets for the National League pennant in 1969.

After retiring from the MLB, Regan went on to coach the baseball program at Grand Valley State College for 9 seasons, his teams winning 176 games and losing 153. He served as a pitching coach for both the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs and managed the Baltimore Orioles for one season. Regan was also the pitching coach for team USA in the 2000 Olympics.

Regan’s rich baseball history is not lost on the Met prospects he works with in Port St. Lucie. In interviews, Met prospects on the rise almost always identify Regan’s experience as something that has had a profound impact on their pitching progress.

He’s amazing. He has lots of baseball experience, and he knows little tweaks here and there that have helped me so much,” is how Cory Mazzoni described it, acclaim repeated in some context by almost every emerging Met pitcher.

Regan’s magic working with young pitchers seems to come from his ability to communicate and a willingness to work one-on-one with his pupils for as long as they desire. Many speak effusively about Regan’s help with the mental side of pitching, with his ability to help his students erase self-doubt and build confidence.

One convincing testimony came from a former Met prospect Scott Shaw. Battling the disappointment and trauma that comes with a demotion from Double-A back to High Single-A, Shaw said, “If there’s a positive of being sent back down a level its getting together to work with Phil Regan again.” Under trying circumstances, that’s high praise indeed.

Part of Regan’s program are daily meeting with his pitchers and catchers to discuss the hitting habits of the batter’s on the opposing team. Working together Regan and his young battery mates formulate a game plan then massage it with adjustments along the way.

To my way of thinking, it was the Mets good fortune when Phil Regan swooped into Port St. Lucie and took the reins of their High Single-A pitching destiny. Regan’s baseball wisdom, courageous patience, and propensity to help young pitchers develop a mental approach on the mound are the perfect mix for young students. Phil Regan is a sage pitching mentor, the perfect teacher to help young Met prospects climb the minor league ladder toward Citi Field.

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About John Bernhardt 165 Articles
MMO Minor League Analyst John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.