Going into Wednesday’s game with the Marlins, Bobby Parnell had just four save opportunities this season, and he blew two of them. Granted, he was done in by defensive misplays behind him in both situations, but he was still unable to shut the door. That’s why yesterday’s performance was so important.
Parnell has been given several chances to be the closer over the past couple of years, and he failed miserably every time. He was starting to gain the reputation as a pitcher who fared well in non-pressure situations, but folded when the game was on the line. Blowing half of his saves this season did nothing to curb those fears.
Perhaps spurred by anger that he was not called upon to close Tuesday night’s game after blowing Monday’s save (he threw two innings and Terry Collins did not want to abuse him), Parnell was at his best Wednesday, retiring the Marlins in order as the Mets clung to a one run lead. It was an encouraging sign in a pressure situation.
Parnell seems to be throwing with a little less velocity this season, but unlike many pitchers who are simply losing their fastball, Parnell appears to be doing it on purpose. He is learning that he does not have to throw every pitch in the upper 90s to be effective. The mid 90s seems to be working just fine, then when he needs a strikeout, he can dial it up and blow one past the batter. The changes in speed are keeping batters off balance. Parnell has never had much movement on his fastball, so varying speeds is an effective weapon to combat that.
Bobby Parnell developing into a reliable closer would be crucial for this team. With so many holes to fill, it would be nice not to have to worry about acquiring a new closer. If only Parnell had taken this step two seasons ago, Sandy Alderson would not have felt compelled to lavish a foolish two-year contract on Frank Francisco. Oh well, better late than never.