Pitchers and catchers reported to spring training just yesterday, and already Frank Francisco, the projected closer for the New York Mets, has been shut down indefinitely with inflammation in his elbow, a likely by-product of offseason surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow. The certainty that Francisco would be the team’s closer and that he would excel in that role were already in doubt, but the fact that he has had to stop throwing so soon into camp is not a good sign for the Mets, or their bullpen.
With Francisco out the picture, at least for the time being, Bobby Parnell becomes the top candidate to step into the closer’s role. At times during his career, Parnell has shown flashes of having what it takes to be a closer, but he’s also had plenty of meltdowns while trying to close out a game. Parnell may eventually move into the closer’s role, and at least deserves the chance to take it away from Francisco this spring, but earning the job and being handed the job because of an injury are two different things. Based on Parnell’s history, the Mets don’t want to hand him the job because they have to; instead, they would prefer to give him the job after he’s earned it, especially if they still have Francisco around to back him up. However, with the uncertainty surrounding Francisco coming off a terrible 2012 season, and now with concerns about his health, the Mets may not have a choice but to go make Parnell their de facto closer.
The only other options the Mets may have are the newly assigned Brandon Lyon and young lefty Josh Edgin. Lyon has more experience as a closer than Parnell, but doesn’t fit the mold of a closer as well as Parnell, and wasn’t signed to be a closer. Edgin could get a look at closer, but he has little major league experience and his change up might not be developed enough to face right-handed hitters in high-pressure situations, so he will probably be better off staying in his role as a lefty specialist. That leaves Parnell as the only real option at closer for as long as Francisco remains out, which is far from an ideal situation for the Mets, a team that needs everything to be all but perfect if they’re going to be competitive this year. So, just one day after pitchers and catchers officially reported to spring training, and already things are going awry for the Mets; what else is new?