It was revealed this week that incumbent Mets’ closer Frank Francisco has elbow inflammation and his availability for Opening Day is in doubt. Apparently, Francisco was not able to rehab properly after he had surgery this offseason to remove bone spurs in his elbow because of personal issues.
“So, here we go again!”-says every Mets’ fan nationwide.
That being said, another familiar refrain is being echoed as we begin Spring Training in earnest: “Is this the year Bobby Parnell finally puts it all together?”
While Francisco recovers from his injury, Terry Collins once again has put his trust in Parnell to be his closer of choice. So, again we ask, is this year going to be any different for Parnell? Is he truly ready to put it all together and become a dominant closer?
In defense of Parnell, he did have his best year in 2012 and finished off the season in impressive fashion. Parnell had a career-best 2.49 ERA and struck out 61 batters in 68 innings. Parnell’s 8.0 K/9 rate in 2012 was down from year’s past. However, last year Parnell traded in velocity for better location and because of that approach he enjoyed his best season. That growth and maturity is a reason why many have pinned high hopes on Parnell this year.
Also available for closing duties in the bullpen is the recently-signed Brandon Lyon. While Lyon is not an overpowering option, his craftiness has come in handy over the years and he has closed games in the past-with 2010 being the last year he closed games (saving 20 games with a 3.12 ERA with the Houston Astros). Overall, Lyon has 79 career saves.
So, will the current instability (at least the questionable health of Francisco) in the pen undermine the Mets’ chances to start out of the gate hot? For a team with many issues, uncertainty at the back end of the bullpen is something the Mets can live without it. On the flip side, it does give Parnell a great chance to become the closer for good and dump the perpetual “closer of the future” tag.
After the Mets added added Francisco, Jon Rauch and Ramon Ramirez in 2012-which led to uninspiring results-the Mets added Lyon, LaTroy Hawkins and Scott Atchison this season to help reinvigorate the pen. While they can be helpful if they are healthy and on top of their game, the key for the Mets’ bullpen to succeed is for Parnell to step up and take the closer’s role and tackle it by the horns.
If Parnell does as much, it’s one less problem the Mets will have to worry about in 2013.