The New York Mets, while not having the best options going into spring training as it is, find themselves having to figure out the closers’ role once again after Frank Francisco was sidelined indefinitely with right elbow inflammation. Bobby Parnell has been handed the torch after filling in for Francisco last season when he was shut down for his elbow issues.
In December, Francisco had surgery to remove a bone spur, and all manager Terry Collins and the Mets can do is wait until the inflammation to go down before allowing him to throw again. If he is not ready for opening day, which seems likely, then next up will be Parnell, who was told he would be given the role.
This is where Parnell must show that he is clearly ready to accept that spot and flourish as a closer. Although he may not have the typical shut down closer “stuff”, he can throw in the mid-90′s consistently, occasionally hitting the 98 mark. The past two seasons, Parnell has recorded a sub-3.00 ERA, and he was extremely effective after the All-Star break in 2012, posting a 3-3 record with a 2.14 ERA, and five saves in seven attempts.
Parnell does not walk a lot of batters and he can work his pitches around the plate, and now must show pitching coach Dan Warthen, Collins and GM Sandy Alderson that his last 17 appearances last year was not a fluke. In those games, he allowed a miserly .196BAA and posted a 0.51ERA while going 3-1. That is the kind of closer the Mets would like to see this spring, and throughout the year.
It is safe to say that if Parnell can turn some heads, when Francisco does come back, he will undoubtedly be looking over his shoulder every time he takes the mound. The Mets would like nothing more than to be comfortable with Parnell, rather than having to venture out into the market for a player like Jose Valverde or Francisco Rodriguez. It would also be to their benefit to keep Brandon Lyon in the seventh or eighth inning rather than stretch the bullpen with him as closer.
So it seems as if the future is now for the Mets, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing going into the 2013 MLB season. The one thing the Mets are flush with is good pitching, and fans would prefer to see the homegrown talent develop into major league talent that is successful. Parnell will be interesting to watch this spring, and all Mets fans just have to believe that he can be a solution instead of the problem.