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Mickey Callaway out to prove he’s not just a pitchers’ manager.

PORT ST. LUCIE — From field to field Monday at the Mets’ spring-training complex, from station to station, Mickey Callaway carried a bat in his right hand. He leaned on it as he engaged everyone from Yoenis Cespedes to front-office mainstay J.P. Ricciardi to Meyer Cabrera, the enthusiastic 10-year-old son of second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera...
Time: 01:25     Date: 20.02.2018
Last US Sport News: Mickey Callaway out to prove he’s not just a pitchers’ manager. NY Post 24 - US News

He leaned on it as he engaged everyone from Yoenis Cespedes to front-office mainstay J.P. Ricciardi to Meyer Cabrera, the enthusiastic 10-year-old son of second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera who joined the team in pre-workout stretching. He used it as a de facto walking stick, not that the 42-year-old needs such help.

Could one construe the bat as a symbol of outreach by the Mets’ new manager, a former pitcher and pitching coach, on this, his very first full-squad workout?

“Nah,” Callaway said, smiling at the suggestion. “I always carried a bat around as a pitching coach, too, in case I needed to hit fungoes.”

Oh well. Make no mistake, however: Among Callaway’s very top challenges at his opportunity of a lifetime are reaching across baseball’s cultural divide and going out of his longtime comfort zone. If he succeeds at this job, he’ll advance not only his own cause, but also those of other pitchers and pitching coaches who want to shatter their stereotype and get into managing.

“I haven’t sat there and just had this really close leadership relationship with position players,” Callaway told The Post. “And pitchers are different than position players. That’s one thing that I have to stay on top of. I’ve got to show them that I understand how hard it is to go out there and play every single day. And show them how much I value what they do.”

“No doubt, as a pitching coach, you look through a cone-shaped prism. You’re focused on the one guy,” John Farrell, a former pitcher and pitching coach who managed the 2013 Red Sox to a championship, said in a telephone interview. “That cone is going to have to be inverted now.”

PLEASE CREDIT ... @ACAUSI

When the Red Sox fired Farrell and the Mets hired Callaway last offseason, the population of pitchers (and pitching coaches)-turned-managers remained at three of 30. The Rockies’ Bud Black and the Reds’ Bryan Price welcomed Callaway into their small fraternity. You won’t be surprised that 12 present managers worked as catchers, the bridge between pitchers and position players.

Callaway became the third of 22 Mets managers, joining George Bamberger and Dallas Green, who pitched. Of the 23 managers enshrined in the Hall of Fame, only two — Dodgers legend Tommy Lasorda and Negro Leaguer Rube Foster — pitched.

“We’re good big-league managers, from Lasorda to Roger Craig to Bob Lemon to Dallas Green down the line,” Black said. “People ask me why there’s not more, since pitching has become such an important part of team success. With the demands on a pitching coach, the demands on a hitting coach, you get pigeonholed in there this day and age.

“For me, it’s always been not so much what position you played. It’s who you are and what will constitute your qualities and skills.

Fortunately for Black, who served as the pitching coach for the champion 2002 Angels (who gave six starts to a journeyman right-hander named Mickey Callaway), he found an open-minded executive in 2006 when he met with Padres president Sandy Alderson.

“I think it’s short-sighted to put labels on people, or limitations, particularly when we’re looking for leadership and not necessarily management,” Alderson said. “Once you start looking for personal qualities rather than professional experience or competence, then it opens things up quite a bit. Buddy is an example of somebody whose personality I think really exceeded any concerns about managerial experience.”

When Alderson and late San Diego general manager Kevin Towers hired Black, he was the only pitcher-turned-manager at the time. Black won National League Manager of the Year honors with the Padres in 2010, and last season, his first in Colorado, he led the Rockies to an 87-75 record and their first postseason appearance since 2009.

Alderson returned to the former-pitcher well when he tabbed Callaway, most recently the Indians’ pitching coach, to succeed Terry Collins with the Mets. On Tuesday, Callaway premiered himself to his entire group with the traditional opening meeting.

“We just really wanted to express our expectations for the season, our expectations for them,” Callaway said. “For the coaching staff. Our expectations to them about each other and the way to handle things. And it was hopefully clear, concise and to the point.”

Mets manager Mickey Callaway (right) speaks with slugger Yoenis Cespedes.Anthony J. Causi

“Funny and to the point,” agreed Jay Bruce, who got to know Callaway last year on the Indians.

“The one thing he said that stands out to me, he said, ‘Respect the game at all times,’ ” Jose Reyes said. “That’s something that, as a baseball player, you have to think about. There was so much good stuff he was talking about.”

Reyes, who will count Callaway as his eighth big-league manager, said this was “one of the best meetings for a manager.”

Callaway spent the two-hour workout quite mobile, switching fields seven times, mostly observing and occasionally chatting. He will bond with his non-pitchers, he said, by “spending time with them, asking them questions. And communicating with them about what they need. ‘Let me know how many swings you need. How many days off do you need?’ ”

Bruce, who played for Price in Cincinnati, said, “Bryan Price, one of his strengths was creating relationships and communication with the whole team, even when he was the pitching coach. He made a great impact on me. We had a great relationship. I’ve had pitching coaches that aren’t as apt to go out of their way to create relationships with the guys other than the pitchers. I believe it’s an individual-to-individual deal.” In Cleveland, Bruce added, Callaway made similar efforts.

Farrell said he relied heavily on his coaches, two of whom (Ruben Amaro Jr. and Gary DiSarcina) just joined Callaway on the Mets, to act as emissaries. “That insight becomes invaluable,” Farrell said.

Black and Callaway chatted at the Winter Meetings.

“I told him you can’t be anything other than yourself,” Black said “ ‘You gained a lot of respect in the industry with what you’ve done in Cleveland, there’s no need to change who you are and how you relate to players. Don’t try to do anything different, especially with position players.’ ”

AP

“My attitude is, these guys, they’ll figure out how to push the buttons pretty easily as long as they can sustain the relationship with the players, stay under calm under pressure — all of the things that go into good decision-making,” Alderson said. “It really shouldn’t be about ‘former pitcher versus former catcher.’ ”

Callaway felt his meeting went well. And he understood it marked only the first step.

“From here, we have to go out and do all those things we talked about,” he said. “Those things are just words.”

Words are just words, a bat just a bat. The verdict on the Mets’ bold choice will come over 162 games and, Callaway and his team hope, beyond.

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