In a candid interview with Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway spoke in-depth about his expectations for the 2019 season, as well as improvements and adjustments he plans to make in his second season at the helm of the Metsies.
With a new general manager in Brodie Van Wagenen, a revamped front office and coaching staff, as well as a host of new faces throughout the roster, Callaway has the luxury of a year of experience under his belt, as well as a greatly improved pool of talent to draw from in nearly every facet of the game.
Additions such as Wilson Ramos, Robinson Cano, and Jed Lowrie are expected to complement the Mets’ young core of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Amed Rosario, and Jeff McNeil, undoubtedly giving this 2019 roster a much greater chance to succeed than it did last year with players such as Jose Reyes, Adrian Gonzalez, Austin Jackson, to name a few, occupying major roles on the Mets for extended periods of time.
Regarding McNeil, who is expected to see plenty of time in the outfield over the coming weeks, preparing him for an undefined role in the Mets’ grass-roaming rotation, Callaway relayed the 26-year-old’s mindset heading into his first full major league season without a true position to play.
“He’s excited about the season. Jeff just likes to play. He can play left or right, we have a lot of options with him and that is a good thing,” Callaway said. “I do think we have a solid baseball team […]. We are better than last year. We realized in Spring Training last year if somebody gets hurt, we were going to struggle. Now we have some real depth.”
That they do. With Juan Lagares back in the fold and expected to start in center field, as well as Keon Broxton, J.D. Davis, the previously mentioned McNeil, and the newly-anointed bench guy, Todd Frazier, the Mets’ bench is in much better shape than it was last year, for sure. Another outfield addition could be a boon for this team’s depth, but we’ll have to wait and see whether Van Wagenen makes a move.
As for any lingering questions at first base, Callaway declared the starting job “[Peter Alonso‘s] to lose”, adding that Frazier “could always swing over to first” in case the 23-year-old’s adjustment to the majors isn’t exactly seamless. Depth really is a great thing, folks.
The Mets’ bullpen is light-years ahead of where it was towards the end of last season. New addition Edwin Diaz — who Callaway praised as a “great kid”, adding “he is going to be fun to watch — old friend Jeurys Familia, new friend Justin Wilson, as well as Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and others, should provide quality reinforcements for the late innings.
Naturally, after a handful of well-publicized blunders and mental-lapses in his first season on the Mets’ bench, Callaway is heading into this year with a season’s worth of lessons learned and a managerially-experienced bench coach in Jim Riggleman, with the latter worth his weight in gold on Callaway’s bench.
“I sat down and talked to Jim Riggleman about some of the moves I made [in my first season] and he explained to me that who I am […] — an ex-pitching guy going into managing — I need to be a little more traditional and not try to invent the wheel,” Callaway told Kernan. “So we’ll manage more traditionally this year. As much as you have to think in the National League, I was thinking too much.”
Considering the increased level of talent spread out across the Mets’ 25-and-40-man rosters, the skipper’s support system in new hitting coach Chili Davis, the aforementioned Riggleman, and incumbent pitching coach Dave Eiland, Callaway is certainly in a much better position to succeed than he was last year.