NEW YORK -- When the Indians demoted veteran Anthony Swarzak to the Minors in 2015, then-pitching coach Mickey Callaway approached him with a series of suggestions that Swarzak, in retrospect, didn't want to hear. Callaway implored Swarzak to lengthen his stride. He told the struggling relief pitcher to hit the
NEW YORK -- When the Indians demoted veteran Anthony Swarzak to the Minors in 2015, then-pitching coach Mickey Callaway approached him with a series of suggestions that Swarzak, in retrospect, didn't want to hear. Callaway implored Swarzak to lengthen his stride. He told the struggling relief pitcher to hit the weight room with more zeal.
Though Swarzak initially bristled at the suggestions, he eventually took them to heart. He dedicated himself to the gym, and decided to scrap his reliance on sinkers, instead reverting to his high school repertoire of four-seam fastballs and sliders. Swarzak grew stronger. He gained velocity.
"I kind of got backed into a corner," said Swarzak. "I was 30 years old and had to make a change. … Here we are three years later, and I've never been in better shape. It all just kind of clicked."
It did take some time for Swarzak to perfect his revamped battle plan -- particularly his fastball command, as he began trying to use his newfound strength to throw harder. With the Yankees in 2016, Swarzak posted a 5.52 ERA, his highest since becoming a reliever five years prior.
His career in jeopardy, Swarzak signed a Minor League deal with the White Sox last offseason, made their Opening Day roster and finally broke out, striking out 52 batters in 48 1/3 innings before Chicago dealt him -- and his 2.23 ERA -- to the Brewers for the stretch run. In Milwaukee, Swarzak continued his success, posting a 2.48 ERA in 29 appearances.
Convinced that Swarzak's improvements were real, the Mets agreed to a two-year, $14 million deal with him at last week's Winter Meetings in Florida.
"It had a lot to do with timing for both sides," Swarzak said. "I was ready to sign during the Winter Meetings and they had good meetings with my agent. It's a great opportunity. It's a great organization, a place where if you have success, you can pitch for a long time and really make a name for yourself. I'm excited to be a Met."
Although Swarzak did not speak with Callaway during the recruitment process, he is eager to reunite with his old pitching coach. At the back of New York's bullpen, the right-hander will team with Jeurys Familia, AJ Ramos and Jerry Blevins -- all of whom, unlike Swarzak, will be dealing with Callaway for the first time.
"I love the guy," Swarzak said. "He's a straight shooter and in this game of baseball, as a player, that's all I ask for."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.