Phillies Likely To Interview Indians Pitching Coach For Manager Job

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Now that it appears the internal managerial interviews will stop at three candidates for the Phillies, it’s time for the club to go outside of the system to make some inquiries.It appears that the leading front runner for just about every open managerial job in the league, Alex Cora, will be heading to the Boston Red Sox in 2018. That move makes sense for Cora, as he’ll have an immediate chance to prove his clout with a division winning team. Expect the Red Sox, presumably under Cora, to head back to the postseason next year.

Now that Cora’s name is out of the mix, one name that has surfaced quite frequently over the last few days has been Cleveland Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Callaway is a young, ascending managerial candidate who has been praised by many inside the Indians organization, including the current manager, Terry Francona. Francona likely understands that he’ll be losing Callaway this offseason to one of many teams looking for a manager, including possibly his old club, the Phillies.

But who is Mickey Callaway?

Callaway was drafted by the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays in the seventh round of the 1996 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut three years later in 1999, finishing the season 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA. He didn’t appear in the big leagues in 2000, but was recalled in 2001, pitching in two games out of the bullpen, with another 7-plus ERA. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in 2001 in exchange for another minor leaguer. Over the next three seasons, Callaway would pitch for the Angels and Rangers, going 3-9 in 33 appearances, including 15 starts. He didn’t find great succes in either spot, having a season low ERA in 2002 of 4.19. At the end of 2004, Callaway went to Korea to continue to pitch. He found success overseas, winning 30 games from 2005-2006. He posted a 2.87 ERA in 2006. In 2008, at 33-years-old, Callaway pitched professionally for the last time with an independent club in Laredo, Texas.

While it wasn’t a glorious career by any means, Callaway did have years of professional experience. And you know the old saying: “Those that can’t do, coach.” Just two years later, Callaway would, in fact, get into coaching.

Callaway has now been with the Indians organization since 2010, when he signed on to be the pitching coach of the Lake County Captains, the Single A affiliate of the Indians. The Captains won the Midwest League that year. A year later, Callaway was promoted to the Advanced A affiliate, the Kinston Indians, now known as the Carolina Mudcats. In 2011, the Indians were runners-up in the Carolina League. See the trend? Teams win with Callaway as their pitching coach.

In 2012, Callaway made the jump from Kinston pitching coach to pitching coordinator of the entire organization. He served in that role for just one season before taking over as the big league club’s pitching coach in 2013 when Terry Francona became the new manager of the team and Scott Radinsky was let go from the position. It’s a position that Callaway has held now for five seasons.

In his first season as pitching coach, Indians pitchers struckout 1379 batters, the second most in baseball. The next year, the staff came back with 1450 strikeouts a Major League record. His team dropped its cumulative ERA from 3.82 in 2013 to 3.56 in 2014, when the league average for team ERA that year was 4.78. Over the least two seasons, we know just how good the Indians pitching staff has become, in both the starting rotation and the bullpen.

This season, six Indians relief pitchers posted a sub-3.00 ERA, including Tyler Olson and Andrew Miller, who both sat below 2.00 for the season. The starting pitching was brilliant, again, led by Cory Kluber, who finished the season 18-4 with a 2.25 ERA. He’ll likely win the Cy Young award again this season for the second time in his career. Outside of Kluber, though, the staff made strides in the right direction to find consistency heading into 2018. Mike Clevinger has proven that he can be a capable, every fifth day guy in the rotation. He has incredible stuff and began to find command of all his pitches later in the season. Carlos Carrasco is in a similar scenario, having tremendous life to his pitches, but struggling with consistency. That consistency started to show in the latter portion of the campaign.

But it hasn’t just been the young guns that Callaway has helped guide. He’s worked on a particular reclamation project that helped prolong a struggling starters career. In the 2012 offseason, the Indians took a chance on a struggling Scott Kazmir, who had been battling injuries and inconsistencies since 2009 when he posted a 6.24 ERA in his final season with the the Rays. Kazmir then went on to pitch poorly in 2010 and was injured most of 2011. It appeared his career might be over. But the Indians took a chance on him, and it payed dividends, as Kazmir came nearly back to form, posting a 4.04 ERA. It was a far cry from his most successful days in Tampa, but it got Kazmir back on the right track, eventually leading to big deals with the A’s, Astros and Dodgers. In fact, in 2014, Kazmir won the most games in a season of his career when he posted a 15-9 record. I know these types of projects are often left to the Pittsburgh Pirates, but I have to believe that Callaway had a large hand in rescuing Kazmir’s career post-injury.

For the fourth straight year, the Indians have led the league in strikeouts with 1614, demolishing the record they set in 2014. They led the league in walks allowed as well, issuing a season low 406 free passes in 2017. The staff also led the league in ERA with a 3.30, continuing that downward trajectory over the last few seasons. Finally, the team finished in third in batting average against at .236, behind just the Yankees and Dodgers.

To put this all into perspective, the Phillies finished in 16th in strikeouts, 17th in walks allowed, 18th in ERA, and 24th in batting average against. A guy like Callaway could do wonders for this staff.

While it will certainly be difficult to pry Callaway from not only the Indians, but from other teams looking for a manager like the Tigers and Mets, it would be a fanatastic move that could bolster the Phillies pitching staff in 2018. Callaway would fit the mold of youth infusio, as well, as he’s only 42-years-old. He’d be able to relate to some of the arms that have struggled to find consistency over the last few years.

 

Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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