Bobby Parnell recently had surgery, and is expected to start 2014 in the same role he found himself in 2013 — as closer for the New York Mets. In 49 appearances before a herniated disk ended his season, the hard-throwing right-hander went 5-5 with a 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 22 saves, and 44 strikeouts in 50 innings pitched. After a tumultuous season in 2012 with Frank Francisco closing games, Parnell helped Mets fans not be as uneasy in the ninth inning of a close game as in years past. At least, I felt more confident with him on the mound.
However, if things don’t go according to plan (when has that ever happened to the Mets?) and Parnell is not ready to start 2014 on Opening Day next April, Terry Collins recently told reporters newly acquired Vic Black would take his place for the time being. He appeared in three games for the Pirates in the big leagues before being a part of the trade that sent him and Dilson Herrera to New York in exchange for Marlon Byrd and John Buck, and has appeared in 13 games since joining the organization. Through his first 11 innings as a Met, he’s 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11 strikeouts, and his first career MLB save.
Would I rather have a healthy Parnell start 2014 instead of having to put a reliever with just one career save at the back of the bullpen? You bet I do. But, if Bobby’s recovery takes longer than anticipated and he’s sidelined for a period of time, I’m happy with Black as the alternative. The 23-year-old has already expressed his desire to eventually become a big league closer, and that’s half the battle for me.
On of the biggest traits needed to be a successful closer is to have confidence in yourself. As we watched Parnell struggle at times through previous years as a closer, I wasn’t sure if he truly wanted to take on that role with the team. It was hard to tell whether or not he had the mental fortitude to eventually become a successful closer…until this year rolled around. With Francisco on the sideline with interesting injury issues, Collins awarded Parnell the job of closing games.
For the first time in his career, I could see that killer instinct in his eyes…the eye of the tiger, for all you Rocky fans (myself included). I feel that’s why he had such a tremendous year as the closer; he never seemed rattled.
I bring that up because it looks like Black has the same kind of internal makeup. At such a young age, he already clamors for the opportunity to shut the door in the ninth inning. If he brings that attitude to the mound as next year’s setup man, I’ll be one happy camper.
And if Parnell isn’t healthy in time for the start of next season, it’s nice knowing there is a hard-thrower in the ‘pen that is eager for the chance to show what he’s made of with the game on the line.