It didn’t take long for the New York Mets‘ bullpen to emerge as the team’s biggest concern for the 2014 season. That bullpen was pathetic in an Opening Day loss to the Washington Nationals. On Tuesday, injury was added to insult with the news that closer Bobby Parnell will go to the disabled list with a partial MCL tear in his right elbow, and that is a crushing blow early in the season to a bullpen that was already an area of concern.
There were already concerns about Parnell’s health after offseason surgery for a herniated disk in his back, but elbow problems on top of that cast further doubts about Parnell’s health for the entire season. He’s been prescribed two weeks of rest before starting a throwing program, which should keep Parnell out for at least the first month of the season, possibly longer.
Without Parnell, the Mets may have no other choice but to insert veteran Jose Valverde into the closer’s role after he was the only one of six Mets’ relievers used on Opening Day to pitch effectively. However, Valverde is coming off a poor 2013 season and may not be able to be a full-time closer. Moving Valverde into the closer’s spot also thins out the rest of the bullpen, especially after Vic Black forced the Mets to send him to triple-A after a disappointing spring when they were expecting him to be a key setup man for them this year.
The silver lining could be that the Mets have a wealth of pitching prospects, including several rookies who will be ready to contribute out of the bullpen this season. Guys like Jacob deGrom and Jeff Walters both pitched well in spring training and could be candidates to take Parnell’s roster spot.
But no matter how talented some of the Mets’ young pitchers are, there is no one in the organization who appears capable of closing games with the efficiency that Parnell did last year. The Mets’ bullpen was an issue before the season, and things look even more bleak with Parnell heading to the disabled list for what could be a long time.