PORT ST. LUCIE — For all of the grand success Mickey Callaway enjoyed as pitching coach in Cleveland, he never won the World Series in that role.
Dave Eiland actually accomplished that feat twice, with the Yankees in 2009 and with Kansas City — against the Mets, it must be noted — in 2015.
It is said that no man is an island, and Eiland certainly is far from alone in being charged with getting the Mets’ talented but injury-riddled pitching staff to rediscover past successes this season. But Callaway made clear on Tuesday the delineation between the two jobs, and it set precisely the right tone on his first official day in uniform.
“Dave and I have talked extensively about this and we’ve had conversations daily about it,” Callaway said during his initial press conference of spring training. “We are both aware that players are going to come to me. I have a passion for pitching, but he’s the pitching coach.
“If a player comes to me, Dave’s gonna know what the discussion was. Dave was my mentor, I learned from Dave, so he’s gonna have everything to do with our pitching success. I’m there to help Dave if he needs help. I’m there for every position player and every pitcher on the team. But Dave Eiland is the pitching coach. And he’s gonna be empowered at all times to do his job.”
Eiland, 51, goes back with Callaway two decades, when the two former pitchers hit it off at opposite ends of their playing careers as teammates in the Tampa Bay organization in 1998.
“Dave took me under his wing, and instantly I saw the value in Dave Eiland and who he was as a person… It was evident right away that he was gonna hold me accountable for the things I did,’ Callaway said. “So I’ve had a respect for Dave Eiland from Day One. I’ve got to see him coaching against him over the years…and I respect him probably more than anybody in the game.”
Incumbent starting pitchers such as Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard already have praised both men for everything from the organized throwing program Eiland established this winter to the open lines of communication leading into spring training and for the subtle tips both already have provided during in-person bullpen sessions at First Data Field.
“I didn’t come here to be the assistant pitching coach to the manager/pitching coach. I came here to be the pitching coach or I wouldn’t have come,” Eiland stressed last week. “Mickey and I have a great relationship and I’m looking forward to working alongside him. He’s another set of eyes, and I think it’s a good thing, actually. He knows what the pitchers are feeling; he knows what I’m feeling. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal one way or the other.
“But if these guys don’t pitch up to their capabilities, that’s on me… Obviously, they have to go out and do it. But it’s my job to prepare them to go out and maximize their potential. I’ll be the first one to stand up and take the heat if they don’t get it done.”
As Eiland noted, Callaway “obviously is going to have a lot on his plate as far as managing the entire team.”
Callaway concurred, but he also pointed out that based on what he’s seen in the past week, he believes the Mets potentially possess “the best group of arms and stuff that I’ve ever seen from top to bottom.”
There clearly are numerous challenges ahead involving the makeup of this staff — from keeping oft-injured starters Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler healthy, to monitoring everyone’s innings, to finding the right mix-and-match formula Callaway envisions for the back end of his bullpen.
Callaway wholeheartedly believes Eiland is the right man for that job. Now, he needs to let his pitching coach do it.
“When I heard that Dave Eiland was available, he was definitely a guy that I wanted,” Callaway said. “I think as far as what we were looking for in pitching coaches… we all sat down and came up with a list of qualities that we wanted in our staff, and what did we want for this team and what was going to be the most impactful to help this team be the best version of themselves.
“And we wrote down all those qualities and right away we knew that Dave Eiland checked those boxes. I knew Dave Eiland checked those boxes, and when Dave came in for his interview, right when he left, every one of those guys in that interview room knew he checked all those boxes. So it was a perfect fit.”