Callaway start has ring to it

By BILL PLUNKETT
The Orange County Register

ANAHEIM When the Angels receive their 2002 championship rings before tonight's game, many will pause to reflect on the road that brought them to that achievement.

When Mickey Callaway takes the mound as the Angels starting pitcher, he will have his own reason for reflection.

"Probably. I think I've been doing that the last two or three days - just kind of looking back at all the hard work it took to get here," the right-hander said. "How it was all worth it. How it's paid off.

"It's going to feel good to be out there. I think I'm going to be pumped up a little more than a normal start. I'm going to have to keep an eye on that."

In his eighth professional season, Callaway, 27, is opening a season in the major leagues for the first time. Callaway got there by making the most of his windows of opportunity. The first opened last season when he went 2-1 with a 4.19 ERA in six regular-season starts after Aaron Sele went on the disabled list with shoulder problems. The second came this spring when Callaway outperformed a handful of candidates to take Sele's spot in the rotation while the veteran recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.

Callaway had a 3.54 ERA in 201/3 spring innings while holding opponents to a .230 batting average. Pitching coach Bud Black described Callaway this spring as a pitcher who had come to see himself as a major-leaguer and wanted to make sure everyone else saw him that way now too.

Black read that accurately, Callaway said.

"Definitely. I think once you get to the point in your career where you're either going to make the jump (from the minors to the majors) or not, you have to do it," Callaway said. "I think last year was definitely that point for me. I knew if I didn't do it then, I was going to be done. I was going to be coaching somewhere."

Instead, Callaway earned the Angels' Minor League Pitcher of the Year award by going 9-2 with a 1.68 ERA in Triple-A and returned to the major leagues for the first time since two games with Tampa Bay in 2000.

"From when I first got called up in '99, I'm 10 times better as a pitcher," said Callaway who went 1-2 in five appearances for the Devil Rays in June and July 1999. "I wasn't ready to pitch in the major leagues. It was great to get that cup of coffee. I think it makes you a better player just to be around major leaguers, whether it's in spring training or whenever. But, to be honest, I know I wasn't ready to be in the majors.

"I think I'm better as far as knowing what hitters are trying to do in the box. I've seen major-league hitters now. I've gotten major-league hitters out."

Sele is scheduled to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment next week and could return to the Angels in early May. That would allow the Angels to send Callaway, out of options, to the minor leagues if he cleared waivers. His future could be in the Angels' bullpen - or with another team.

"I try not to do that," Callaway said of looking ahead. "I'm a firm believer that things that are out of your control aren't worth worrying about."

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ANGELS: Callaway finds way of the ring


By Gabe Lacques
Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- Mickey Callaway got a phone call out of the blue recently from a lawyer asking whether he'd be interested in selling the ring Callaway will receive tonight to commemorate the Angels' 2002 World Series championship.

Given that Callaway has just 88 days of major-league service, it's not like he couldn't use the money. But the proposition wasn't one he mulled over for long.

"I didn't call him back," Callaway said.

Instead, Callaway will cherish the ring he and his teammates will receive before their game tonight against the Texas Rangers. While the jewelry will be nice, Callaway might look more forward to the fact he'll be the starting pitcher.

It is both a breakthrough and a dress rehearsal for Callaway, 27. This is the first time he's broken camp with a major-league club, but he's out of options and would be exposed to waivers if the Angels tried to send him down when Aaron Sele returns from shoulder rehabilitation in a month.

While Callaway needs to pitch as well as he can to force the Angels to keep him, he also knows roster reality might prevent that from happening.

No matter what happens, Callaway said his Dec. 17, 2001, trade from Tampa Bay to the Angels (in exchange for infielder Wilmy Caceres) was a turning point in his career.

"It was a new life for me," Callaway said. "It wasn't a place where I was stagnant. When I came up here, (pitching coach) Buddy (Black) said, 'You throw what pitch you want to throw when you want to throw it.' That was a big confidence-builder. In Tampa, it was, 'Throw what the veteran catcher says to throw.' For me, that's a big difference."

The results were evident. Callaway was the second minor leaguer in Devil Rays history to earn a major league call-up, but in two brief stints in '99 and 2001, he produced ERAs of 7.45 and 7.20. Because his fastball doesn't quite top out at 90 mph, Callaway felt compelled to try to throw harder when he got to the major leagues. For a pitcher who relies heavily on location, it was the worst thing he could've done.

So after going 9-2 with a 1.68 ERA for the Angels' Triple-A club, Callaway was better prepared mentally when he was called up into the midst of a pennant race last August to replace the ailing Sele. The result was a 2-1 record and a 4.19 ERA in six starts. He carried that confidence into spring training, when Callaway was the Angels' best starter behind Ramon Ortiz and grabbed the temporary No. 5 starter role.

"To tell you the truth, he was very, very confident last year," catcher Bengie Molina said. "He looks the same to me, if not better. He had great confidence and brought it into this camp. He's ready to go." ANGELS vs. TEXAS Time: 7:05 p.m., Edison Field. TV/Radio: Fox Sports Net; 710-AM, 950-AM (Spanish) Matchup: Mickey Callaway (2-1, 4.19 ERA in '02) opposes the Rangers' Chan Ho Park (9-8, 5.75). Texas' Alex Rodriguez, who homered Sunday, needs one more to become the youngest player to hit 300 home runs. He's hit 21 career homers at Edison Field, more than at any opposing ballpark. Park did not face the Angels in his first season as a Ranger; he went 3-1 with a 3.31 ERA against them as a Dodger. -- Gabe Lacques

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Callaway gets the call

Right-hander set to go in season's second game By Doug Miller / MLB.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mickey Callaway took the microphone and off he went, sitting up in the TV booth with Angels regulars Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler and trying to hang in there like a big-league veteran.

It was the last Angels exhibition game, vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Callaway, the 27-year-old right-hander who just made the Angels out of Spring Training for the first time in his career, was the guest broadcaster.

"I was real nervous at first, but it was fun," Callaway said. "I can see myself doing that after I'm done playing. They have a great seat up there."

First, Callaway has to enjoy his current seat, which is located in the Angels dugout.

Callaway went 1-1 with a 3.54 ERA in five appearances -- four starts -- this spring after going 2-1 with a 4.19 down the stretch last year as a replacement starter for Aaron Sele, who injured his shoulder last August and needed surgery in the offseason.

When ace Jarrod Washburn went down with a sprained shoulder and couldn't catch up in time to make his scheduled Opening Day start, the Angels were forced to shuffle things around a bit in the starting pitching ranks.

Ladies and gentlemen, the No. 2 starter for the world champion Anaheim Angels ... Mickey Callaway.

Callaway will face the Texas Rangers on Tuesday in his first start of the 2003 season.

"This guy's a pitcher," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's not going to overpower you, but he knows what it takes to get guys out."

Callaway possesses a high-80s fastball, a curve, a changeup and a split-fingered fastball he's developed with pitching coach Bud Black throughout the spring.

Instead of a forkball that Callaway had trouble placing in the strike zone, the split-fingered pitch has allowed him better control, Callaway says.

In his last Spring Training start, he struck out three batters with the pitch, which he says he'll throw between 10-15 times a game.

"Recognizing the forkball was easy for hitters," Callaway said. "This pitch is working a lot better for me."

When Sele got hurt last August, Callaway worked well for the Angels. He was called up to replace Sele based on a spectacular -- albeit injury-shortened -- campaign in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Callaway went 9-2 with a 1.68 ERA for the Triple-A Salt Lake Stingers and immediately made his presence felt in the heat of a pennant race against Cy Young contender Derek Lowe at Fenway Park.

Callaway gave up three runs in six innings, keeping the Angels in a game they would eventually win, leading to a pivotal split of the four-game series.

Angels reliever Brendan Donnelly, who was Callaway's teammate in Salt Lake, wasn't surprised by Callaway's successful spring.

"Mickey knows what he's doing out there," Donnelly said. "He has four pitches and he has excellent command of all of them. When you've got that, you're going to be tough."

In a tough decision for the Angels, Callaway was kept off the postseason roster when the team needed only four starters.

Callaway says it was somewhat difficult to watch the team achieve the highest of baseball's highs without him, but he figures to be a key component in the Angels' plans this season.

"We're very comfortable with Mickey in there," Scioscia said. "He's proven that he's not intimidated by Major League hitters and he goes out there and pitches his game."

Callaway, in his typically humble style, says he's just happy to be wanted.

"It's great to have a job and it's great to be on this team," Callaway said.

"I'm going to do the best I can to stay here."