For the first installment of Empire Writes Back’s Spring Training player profiles we have decided to start at the back with Mets closer Bobby Parnell.
This is the first full season in which Parnell comes into the season as the unquestioned closer in the Mets bullpen, although he did lead the Mets in saves last year with 22. It took some time for the now 29 year old to get to the point where he could be considered for this role, but he has really come into his own as a pitcher over the past two seasons.
Parnell broke into the majors in the 2008 season at 23 years old as a flame throwing reliever, routinely having his fastball top out in the high 90′s but didn’t have much success to show for it, in recent seasons he has dialed back his fastball in favor of more control and the benefits have been apparent. His last two seasons he has posted career bests in saves, ERA and WHIP. Last year’s WHIP of 1.00 was particularly impressive as well as the fact he allowed only one home run in 50 innings.
Injuries have curtailed his progress in those seasons however, including having his season cut short by a neck injury in early August that required surgery in the offseason. He reported to Spring Training on time but has suffered a mild quad strain already this spring, but has already resumed throwing.
The Mets bullpen, as can be said for most in baseball to be fair, is a huge question mark. Parnell remaining healthy and consistent throughout the season will be crucial for the Mets to be successful. If he falters the Mets will have to fall back on either unproven players like Vic Black or reclamation projects like Kyle Farnsworth or Jose Valverde, none of those options are appealing to the club or its fan base.