A familiar face will be joining new Angels manager Joe Maddon in the dugout next season. Former pitcher Mickey Callaway will be named the Angels’ pitching coach, said a person on Saturday who is familiar with the team’s thinking but is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Callaway was recently removed from his post as manager of the New York Mets after two years, which made him an easy target for his former team.
The Angels considered bringing back their former longtime pitching coach, Mike Butcher, for the vacancy created by the firing of first-year coach Doug White. But Callaway’s success in the same post for the Cleveland Indians from 2013 to 2017 was too appealing to disregard.
The Indians owned the best earned-run average in the American League during Callaway’s five-year tenure. Their 3.65 ERA ranked fourth overall, slightly behind the Dodgers’ MLB-leading mark of 3.44.
Cleveland’s pitching staff, which featured two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and future All-Star Trevor Bauer, also posted the best strikeouts-per-nine-innings rate (9.02) and registered the most strikeouts (7,248) from 2013 to 2017.
Stocked with their own bevy of talented pitchers, the Mets trusted Callaway to transfer his knowledge to New York despite his expanded duties. He went 77-85 in 2018, his first year as a manager at any level. Following a shift in the Mets’ front office, Callaway struggled to live up to heightened expectations this season. At one point, he shouted at a reporter and bungled his initial apology. Callaway oversaw a second-half surge but the Mets fired him with one year remaining on his contract a few days after the season’s conclusion.
Callaway, 44, will now get an opportunity to turn around an Angels pitching staff that has for years been decimated by injuries, and in 2019 took a darker hit when promising starter Tyler Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room July 1.
Vacancies in the starting rotation forced the Angels to promote several minor leaguers who were initially not on the team’s major league depth chart. Jose Suarez, who emerged as the team’s most promising left-handed pitching prospect in 2018, struggled to acclimate to the major leagues and finished with a 7.11 ERA. Fellow rookie Patrick Sandoval showed flashes of promise, but had a 5.03 ERA. Pending free agent Trevor Cahill was the only Angels pitcher to toss more than 97 innings.
With two-way player Shohei Ohtani unable to pitch as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, the Angels put together one of the worst pitching campaigns in franchise history. They posted a 5.12 ERA — the third-highest posted by any Angels team — and allowed the third-most home runs (267) in baseball.
General manager Billy Eppler’s primary task this offseason will be addressing that weakness. An expanded payroll should allow him to pursue aces such as the Houston Astros’ Gerrit Cole and San Francisco Giants’ Madison Bumgarner. Eppler could also go after Zack Wheeler, who pitched for Callaway in New York.
For now, the Angels can take comfort in the familiar. Maddon was Mike Scioscia’s bench coach when Callaway pitched for the Angels during parts of the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Maddon later managed the Chicago Cubs against Callaway’s Indians during the 2016 World Series.
There is also familiarity between Callaway and Angels closer Hansel Robles, who pitched for the Mets before they dumped him on the waiver wire in June 2018. Robles has since resurrected his career with the Angels. He posted a 2.51 ERA and collected 23 saves in 2019.
The Angels, who still have to fill the role of bench coach, will likely announce their 2020 coaching staff in one fell swoop in November.