New York Mets manager Mickey Callaway appeared to make a rookie mistake during Monday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead of waiting for a pinch hitter to get announced, Callaway called on his bullpen prematurely, allowing the Phillies to get a better matchup at the plate.
After the game, however, Callaway denied that was the case. According to him, the unconventional substitution was all part of the plan.
What mistake did Mickey Callaway make against the Phillies?
With the Phillies looking to add to their three-run lead in the eighth inning, the team sent Odubel Herrera into the on-deck circle to pinch hit for Aaron Nola. Callaway had left-hander Jerry Blevins warming in the pen, and decided to make the call so Blevins could face the left-handed Herrera.
That’s not what ended up happening. Herrera had never officially been announced as the pinch hitter. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler decided he was better off sending right-handed hitter Jesmuel Valentin to the plate to face Blevins. But since Herrera was never announced, Kapler could still use him later in the game.
At the time, it definitely looked like Callaway screwed up and went to his bullpen too early.
Oh man. It appears Mickey Callaway brought in Jerry Blevins to face lefty Odubel Herrera, who wasn't announced though. So Gabe Kapler sent up righty Jesmuel Valentin instead. Blevins struck out Valentin anyway, but the the process was off.
— James Wagner (@ByJamesWagner) July 10, 2018
Mickey Callaway’s questionable decision pays off
The decision to go to Blevins worked out for Callaway. The reliever was able to strike out Valentin on four pitches. Blevins picked up another quick out to end the inning.
What did Mickey Callaway say about the questionable move after the game?
While it appeared Callaway made a mistake by going to Blevins too early, he told reporters after the game that was not the case.
Callaway said he wanted to go to Blevins before Herrera was announced, hoping Philly would opt for a lesser hitter than its best bat on the bench. It went the way he wanted, he said.
— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) July 10, 2018
In fact, Callaway claims that’s exactly what he wanted. By going to Blevins, Callaway knew the Phillies would not send Herrera to the plate. He knew the team would send up an inferior hitter and it paid off. Callaway explanation makes it seem like he was playing chess while everyone watching was playing checkers.
Was Mickey Callaway’s early substitution actually all part of his master plan?
Mets fans seem pretty skeptical. Given the team’s struggles lately, they are hesitant to give Callaway the benefit of the doubt.
If the move was intentional, it was an unusual way to approach the situation. If Callaway waited until Herrera was announced, he would force Kapler into a tough decision. Should Kapler use Herrera anyway even though he would be facing a lefty, or should he remove Herrera from the game to pinch hit with Valentin.
By making the move early, Callaway ensured Kapler would get to keep Herrera — one of the team’s best players this season — for the rest of the contest. If the game got close or went into extras, Kapler could use Herrera off the bench again.
There’s some evidence that Mickey Callaway’s move was intentional
While it was definitely a strange sequence of events, there’s actually some evidence that maybe this was Callaway’s plan all along. Blevins has surprisingly been more effective against right-handers in 2018. It’s possible Callaway wanted Blevins to face a righty the entire time, and used confusing mind games to fool Kapler into giving him the matchup he wanted.
Either that, or he made a mistake and got away with it. One of those things seems a lot more likely than the other.
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