This time last year, few expected Bobby Parnell to open the year with Triple-A, figuring he had a bullpen spot locked up. But a poor Spring led to an assignment to Buffalo, where he spent the first two-and-a-half months of the year. Could it be déjà vu all over again for Parnell here in 2011?

Once again, most people have written Parnell’s name onto the major league roster. He figures to be the team’s eighth inning man and primary setup man to Francisco Rodriguez. Plus, with the Mets likely to be careful about the usage of Rodriguez this year, Parnell figured to be the most likely pitcher to benefit, picking up some saves and games finished in lieu of Rodriguez.

Basically, Parnell was in this position almost by default. Yes, he could reach 100 mph on the radar gun but that was seemingly his main claim to the job. Well, that and the fact that there was no one else with closing experience. But now there is.

Jason Isringhausen has come out of nowhere and now has to be viewed as a legitimate threat to not only Parnell and his eighth-inning role, but also his spot on the roster. We know Rodriguez will be on the team. We figure that D.J. Carrasco also has a spot locked up, by virtue of the two-year contract he signed this offseason. It’s a reasonable guess that the Mets will employ both a LOOGY and a long man, meaning that four bullpen spots are locked up.

Taylor Buchholz also signed as a free agent this year with a major league contract. Manny Acosta had a similar ERA and better WHIP last year than Parnell and is out of options. Pedro Beato is a Rule 5 guy and would have to be offered back to Baltimore if he does not make the roster. Throw in Isringhausen and Parnell and it’s now a very crowded bullpen situation.

If Isringhausen is all the way back in his comeback from elbow surgery, he could fill the role of eighth inning man and be the backup closer for Rodriguez. While no one else had closer dust sprinkled on their resume, Isringhausen has 293 lifetime Saves. That could add up to big trouble for Parnell.

Because let’s face it, Parnell is a glorified ROOGY at this point in his career. Last year LHB had a .327/.364/.442 mark against him. It’s great that he can throw so hard and get lots of strikeouts. Those are extremely important for a short reliever. But it’s also important to be able to get out anyone who steps to the plate. Do you really want Parnell facing Ibanez, much less Howard or Utley if the game is on the line in the eighth inning?

If Isringhausen is productive, it seems likely that he will make the team. That makes five bullpen spots locked up for Opening Day. That would leave Parnell in with Acosta, Beato and Buchholz fighting for the last two spots.

So, Parnell cannot repeat his mistake from last year, thinking he has the team made in Spring Training. He has to go out and get results. He gave up four hits and a run in his first outing, which covered two innings. That outing is not horrible, but Parnell needs to improve if he wants to be with the major league club in Florida for Opening Day, rather than waiting a week to open against the Syracuse Chiefs with the Bisons again.

6 comments on “Is Bobby Parnell’s roster spot in jeopardy?

  • 86mets

    Isringhausen is a long shot to make the team out of ST, even if he “wows” the brass. He didn’t pitch in 2010, is 38 years old, and hasn’t pitched effectively since 2008, his last year in St Louis. My guess is that he’ll start the year in Buffalo to round into shape with the hope of a callup if someone gets hurt or is ineffective. An even better guess is that he retires if he doesn’t make it back by June or July. IMO, Parnell’s roster spot is NOT in jeopardy, at least not from Izzy.

    • Brian Joura

      Izzy may be a long shot but if he “wows” the brass he’ll be on the club. Why else invite a 38 year old coming off arm problems? You hope he’s ready to contribute right away, not having to go to Buffalo to prove himself.

  • Mike Koehler

    A. It’s easy to forget, but Parnell is no seasoned vet yet. Give him a chance to improve his numbers against lefties and learn that straight heat is dead heat.

    B. Why can’t Carrasco serve as both quality reliever and long man? He’s trying out as a starter, isn’t he?

    • Brian Joura

      A. Agreed. Now where is the place for him to learn those things?

      B. Interesting idea. I’m not married to the idea of having to have a long man. I’d much prefer everyone in the pen besides the LOOGY be capable of going 2.0 IP and not worry about a guy being able to go 3 or more. But it seems like I’m in the minority.

  • Brian Mangan

    Highly doubtful my man.

    Even IF Isringhausen is back, and 100%, and throwing darts, there is no reason to think Parnell might be out of a spot. Let’s ALSO assume also that there is a LOOGY, and Beato makes it because of the Rule V thing, and Carrasco makes it. That would be five spots locked up, two remaining. Let’s also assume that Buchholz is recovered, and pitches well.

    Even if all of those things happen (which would be amazing, by the way) how could Parnell not beat out Acosta for the last spot?

    I realize Acosta had a decent year last year, but he’s also a guy who has only pitched more than 40 major league innings in a season once in his career and has a career K/BB of 1.6. He’s going to be 30 years old this season, and was so lowly regarded by the Braves that the Mets were able to claim him off waivers last year. He’s averaged 5 BB/9 over his minor league career.

    Acosta had a good season last season, but it was by far his best ever, and with the way Parnell performed down the stretch last year, I can’t see him moving for *anyone*. And this is coming from a guy who before the 2010 season told anyone who would listen that Parnell would never hack it as a starter and would be lucky to develop out of the bullpen either. Parnell also had a .381 BABIP against last year.

    • Brian Joura

      You’re not accounting for a Misch/Gee/ long man. Now, I personally would have no problem with a bullpen with no long man, but you have to at least acknowledge that fact.

      Carrasco is a near-certainty to make it, because of his two-year contract. Buchholz pitched 33 innings last year and I would not consider him a huge risk to make the club from a health standpoint. He gets a roster bonus if he makes the team on Opening Day, which might possibly influence things.

      You talk about Acosta but it was Parnell’s best season ever, too. He had a 3.11 GB/FB rate and a 5.3 HR/FB mark. And while his BABIP was high, it was .331 the year before. He’s pretty hittable for a guy with his fastball. He cut his BB rate in half last year — is he really only going to give up 2.06 BB/9?

      Bottom line is there are a bunch of candidates for bullpen jobs, a new manager and front office and no reason for anyone other than K-Rod to feel 100% confident about making the team out of the bullpen.

      Most likely, Parnell will make the club. But if he has a lousy ST, he could easily be back in Buffalo to start the year. Just like last year.

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