If Starters Can Stay Healthy, Sky Is The Limit, Dave Eiland Says

By Ed Coleman
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Everybody says it. Everybody feels it. If the Mets’ pitchers can stay healthy throughout 2018, watch out!

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Mickey Callaway may be the new Mets manager, but Dave Eiland, the new pitching coach, is the man who is tasked with getting the most out of this talented staff and making sure it gets to the finish line intact. Eiland spoke at length Wednesday and covered many topics.

On getting the starters ready for their first spring game: “Everybody will get at least two sides and two B.P.s Some may get more, depending on when they’re slotted to pitch. The back-end-of-the-bullpen guys, you won’t see them in games for a while. You don’t have to build those guys up to 100 pitches. We’ll start B.P. on Saturday.”

Steven Matz

Mets starter Steven Matz pitches during the first inning against the Padres on July 26, 2017 in San Diego. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

On going back to New York (he is a former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach): “I know what the expectations are here. I embrace them. Pressure is not the right word for me. Whatever is said or written is not going to put more pressure on me to do what I need to do than I put on myself. I know how good it is to win here, and it’s something that I want to feel again. When I knew I wasn’t going back to Kansas City and I knew there were changes being made here, I had my eye on here, and this was before Mickey came into the picture. I came here to win again.”

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On Matt Harvey: “Mechanically, it looks like he got into some bad habits because of injuries. It looks like he was doing something with his lower half to help his upper half or his arm. We’ve looked at film. His last couple of sides have got him back on track a little bit. Getting him back to the level of 2013, certainly that’s our goal. He’s healthy. He’s in good shape, physically and mentally. What matters is what we do today moving forward with Matt.”

Matt Harvey

Mets starter Matt Harvey pitches against the Cubs during the first inning on Sept. 13, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

On the talent level of the pitching staff and bullpen usage: “There’s extreme talent here. I’ve never been around a collection of talent like I’m around here. That being said, we have to keep them healthy and keep running them out there. Our plan every night is to get 27 outs. We don’t care what combination we use. The guys in the bullpen don’t care what inning they pitch in. That bullpen will work itself out, shake itself out. If you save a certain pitcher to pitch the ninth inning and you don’t win the seventh and the eighth, the ninth inning is not going to matter. We’re going to do what we have to do. Going in, (Jerry’s) Familia will probably get the majority of the saves. But if we need to use him to get the last out of the seventh and pitch the eighth to get us to the ninth, that’s what we’ll do.”

Eiland was the Royals’ pitching coach when they faced the Mets in the 2015 World Series. What did he think of the Mets’ young arms then?

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“I was very envious, very jealous,” he said. That’s a special group. The sky was the limit then. Sky’s still the limit. Why not? I’m a very optimistic person — realistic, too. … They’re all going to play a part. If they’re all pitching good and they’re all able to answer the bell every five days, we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

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Interesting side note: Near the end of the news conference, Eiland mentioned the seven mainstays — Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. But he also threw in Corey Oswalt, a name and pitcher to watch.