The New York Mets made a big deal out of getting more from their relievers under new manager Mickey Callaway, and so far the new skipper has been a man of his word. Callaway has leaned heavily on his bullpen over the first few days of the season, especially with the starting pitchers going shorter than usual due to the cold weather. The Mets used the same three relievers (Robert Gsellman, Anthony Swarzak, and Jeurys Familia) in the first two games of the season. During Saturday’s game, Callaway asked each of them to finish off one inning and start the next, an unusual request this early in the season.
The strategy is one that Callaway carried over from his time with the Cleveland Indians. While Callaway was the Indians’ pitching coach, Cleveland utilized a strong bullpen to post tremendous pitching statistics, mostly on the strength of a group of versatile relievers capable of going multiple innings if necessary. This may be why Callaway chose to deploy the same three relievers in the first two games of the year, specifically in an effort to get them used to the type of workload he expects from them.
This approach does have merit, but it isn’t without its drawbacks. Swarzak tossed a lot of pitches after sitting for a decent amount of time on Saturday, and it may have led to the oblique injury that landed him on the disabled list today. Callaway also sent Paul Sewald out for a second inning of work with the bullpen short on Sunday, and he threw 51 pitches in his first outing of the year. That type of usage isn’t sustainable over the long term, but with Swarzak unavailable and Steven Matz only lasting four innings this was more a matter of necessity than by design.
While it is fair to question if Callaway’s methods will work with this group in the long term, he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Callaway has a much stronger track record of managing a pitching staff than Terry Collins did, and he will have help from a strong pitching coach in Dave Eiland. The Mets have hinted that they will also be cycling in fresh arms throughout the year in order to keep players healthy, which is another good idea in practice. Callaway simply needs to find a way to execute his vision and get good results from his relievers, a task that is easier said than done but one he is clearly capable of achieving.