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Another Blow to Mets’ Pitching Staff: Bobby Parnell’s Elbow

by Guy Kipp | Posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Take the “r-n-e” out of Parnell, and you have “pall,” which is what has been cast on the Mets—again—in the wake of the news that closer Bobby Parnell has a ligament injury to his elbow which may require surgery and might keep him out the entire 2014 season.

Taking Parnell’s arm out of the Mets’ bullpen, an area which has not been strength of this team, now looks like its biggest weakness once again.

The loss of a closer, who pitches about four innings a week, on average, should not be a death blow to a good franchise. The defending World Champion Red Sox went through not one, but two season-ending injuries to their first two closers in 2013 before settling on Koji Uehara, who ended up being far better than the two fallen relievers ever were.

The 2013 Cardinals began the season with Edward Mujica as their closer and finished it in the World Series with Trevor Rosenthal closing out games. The Dodgers began the season with Brandon League as their ninth-inning guy, and ended up in the National League Championship Series with Kenley Jansen as their closer. The Tampa Bay Rays have won 90-plus games in five of the last six seasons, and they’ve done so with a different closer almost every year.

Good teams plan for adversity and are prepared for it. But the Mets always seem to react to every setback as a ‘sky-is-falling’ catastrophe. If any franchise should be used to season-ending arm injuries to their pitchers by now, it’s the Mets.

Parnell entered the ninth inning of Monday’s opener against the Nationals protecting a one-run lead, but his first pitch was a fastball that only read 88 mph on the gun and was grounded hard into center field for a leadoff single by Ian Desmond.

The Mets’ broadcasters immediately raised the red flag at Parnell’s velocity—which had, in fact, been below his norm all spring training following his surgery on a bulging disc in his back last fall. The Mets should not have been taken by surprise that Parnell might be an injury risk.

Later in the inning, Parnell, who eventually allowed the tying run in a game the Mets lost 9-7, did get up to 94 mph on the gun, but at what price? Was he overthrowing to get to that level?—which is still a couple miles per hour less than what a healthy Bobby Parnell brings.

At any rate, Jose Valverde is the Mets’ closer for now, with Vic Black at Triple-A trying to work out his control problems and Jeurys Familia on the major league roster with a better fastball than either of them.

Whatever the case, if the Mets allow an injury that should not have surprised them to be an excuse to let yet another season be ruined, it would just underscore their weakness as a franchise.

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