In a season full of disappointments, one of the few bright spots for the New York Mets has been the emergence of closer Bobby Parnell.
Parnell, who was named the team’s closer in spring training after Frank Francisco was diagnosed with a mild strain of the flexor pronator in his right elbow, has recorded six saves.
Parnell, a 2005 ninth-round draft selection out of Charleston Southern University, was the Mets’ first farmhand to be inserted into the closer’s role out of spring training since Randy Myers in 1988. Now, Parnell, 28, has a legitimate shot to become the franchise’s first long-term homegrown closer since Tug McGraw, who holds the franchise record for saves by a homegrown player with 86.
The key for Parnell has always been confidence. For now, at least, Parnell seems to be confident and comfortable in his new role. Even though Parnell has two blown saves on his ledger this season, he’s getting a grip on what it takes mentally to be a successful closer.
“I know where I want to be,” Parnell told the New York Daily News on May 10. “Y’all know where I want to be, they know where I want to be. If they feel Frankie is a better fit, that’s fine, I will do whatever is best for this team. But I love this role.”
He’s got the right attitude, and attitude is half the battle to closing.
But before anyone starts putting his name in the same sentence with that old guy in the Bronx, let it be known that Parnell is not, nor likely ever will be Mariano Rivera. But who is, right?
They’re two polar opposites. Parnell uses a two-seam fastball that has at times topped the radar gun at 100 mph to go along with a knuckle-curve, while Rivera has notched 625 saves with his signature pitch, the cutter.
Anyway, over four full major-league seasons, Parnell has displayed the power pitching traditionally slotted for a major-league closer, a role he has had his eye on since becoming a full-time reliever in 2009.
Let’s remember, though, in 2010, after Jason Isringhausen collected his 300th save, Parnell replaced him as the club’s closer. The results were mixed.
After converting four consecutive saves, Parnell blew three opportunities in a seven-day span. Overall, he blew six of 12 save opportunities.
Last season, Parnell posted a 2.49 ERA while mostly serving as the Mets’ top setup man. After Francisco was placed on the disabled list in June with a left oblique strain, Parnell was asked to close once again. In all, he recorded seven saves and blew five.
So far this season, however, Parnell appears to be putting it all together.
In addition to Parnell’s aforementioned six saves, he is second on the team with four wins and has yielded just two earned runs and three walks in 19 appearances, spanning 19 1-3 innings. Parnell is also seventh among National League relief pitchers with a 0.93 ERA.
That’s been enough to draw praise from manager Terry Collins.
“Bobby is really throwing the ball well,” Collins told the Daily News. “He’s really done a good job.”
Maybe, just maybe, Parnell is evolving into the closer the Mets need.
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.