Parnell’s role in revamped pen is uncertain

Handed the keys to the closer’s role late last season, 27-year-old Bobby Parnell struggled to lay claim to the job moving forward.  The hard-throwing righty converted just 3 of 7 saves in September and eventually gave way to Manny Acosta at the New York Mets searched for someone to work the 9th inning down the stretch.  It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Parnell, but one thing is for certain, he’s as inconsistent as he is talented.

He enters 2012 as a player the team hopes ‘can put it all together’, but that label is going to be tougher and tougher for him to shed with each failed opportunity.  With a revamped bullpen heading into the 2012 season, Parnell no longer has a long leash as he tries to grow.  Instead, as Adam Rubin of ESPN New York points out, he may even be the odd man out when camp breaks:

Photo by Michael G. Baron

Bobby Parnell has an option remaining, while Pedro Beato has three options and Manny Acosta is out of options. Acosta, as a result, is a solid bet to join a bullpen that also includes Francisco, Rauch, Ramirez and Tim Byrdak. Parnell and Beato have little assurance, although Parnell probably has a better shot. It may be partly contingent upon whether the Mets carry a second left-hander such as Daniel Herrera and/or long reliever such as Miguel Batista, Alderson added.

“I think Bobby has got an outstanding future, and it’s just a question of where he’ll pitch and to what extent it clicks this year,” Alderson said. “But, at the same time, we’ve got fewer spots available than we have quality arms at this point.”

I long campaigned for Parnell to get a shot to close and the Mets gave him just that.  He certainly wasn’t up for the challenge in 2011 and I’m not sure he ever will be.  Obviously the Mets felt he needed more time as they went out and signed Frank Francisco to work the 9th this year but the idea that Parnell could start the year off in Buffalo seems like a stretch.  He can still overpower hitters and finished last season strong, managing to not give up an earned run in his last 11 outings.

Used in the right situation and without the pressure of the 9th, I think #39 will be just fine and can hopefully learn from a slew of veteran relievers that will be pitching the back innings in Queens this season.  Someone asked me if I was finally off the Parnell bandwagon, to which I could only reply that I’m still on, but I just think it should be driven in a different direction for the time being.

 

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