Though the All-Star Game is still about five weeks away, there has been quite a lot of hoopla already about New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey starting the game. But here is something to ponder – is it conceivable to believe if the National League is leading in the ninth inning that Bobby Parnell would be asked to close?
After all, Parnell, 28, has gone from answering questions about his reliability as a major league closer to whether he’s good enough to be on the National League All-Star squad in next month’s game.
While Harvey’s arrival as the ace of the rotation has been the biggest story during the Mets’ disappointing season, Parnell’s emergence as a top-tier closer [that’s right, I said it – and believe it] ranks second.
Of course, there’s no guarantee he’ll picked for the team, but the fact that the game is being played at Citi Field should strengthen Parnell’s case to earn a spot and at least beast considered to close.
On the other hand, he is competing against several household names with championship pedigrees, including Philadelphia’s Jonathan Papelbon, Atlanta’s Craig Kimbrel and San Francisco’s Sergio Romo, and that list doesn’t include Pittsburgh’s Jason Grilli.
For career achievement, the Phillies’ Papelbon probably would be the frontrunner to close, especially since he is having another great season. Based on recent merits, the Braves’ Kimbrel has been the most dominant closer in the game, though he has had a few more bumps in the road this season as opposed the last few years. Meanwhile, the most impressive closer in the National League this season has been the Pirates’ Grilli, who has converted a major league-high 22 saves.
Working in Parnell’s favor is that Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen, who told the New York Post Monday that Parnell should be on the All-Star team, was a member of NL manager Bruce Bochy’s coaching staff with the San Diego Padres from 1996-1997.
“Because [Parnell] should have a below 1.00 ERA, because he’s striking out a guy an inning, because he’s done the job each and every time he’s walked out to the mound,” Warthen said, as reported by Mike Puma of the New York Post. “I don’t see anybody who has done any better than him, including Kimbrel.”
For what it’s worth, Warthen and Bochy remain friends. In fact, Warthen told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com Sunday that Bochy was expecting his call, so it’d be hard to imagine – given Warthen’s recent praise of his closer – Parnell’s name didn’t come up at least once during their conversation.
However, a lot can happen between now and when the All-Star rosters are unveiled July 7. For example, Parnell blew his third save in 12 chances during a 3-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night. In the ninth inning, he surrendered two runs on three hits and a walk in 1-3 of an inning, causing his ERA to balloon from 1.85 to 2.55.
Overall, in 25 relief appearances, Parnell has pitched like an All-Star, posting a 4-2 record with a 2.55 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 23 strikeouts in 24 2-3 innings.
“I’ve definitely thought about it, but not too much,” Parnell told the Post, regarding whether he may end up on the All-Star team. ”I’m pitching well right now and everything feels good, but that’s a long way away.”
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.