NEW YORK -- Can Bobby Parnell succeed with lower velocity?
The New York Mets are about to find out.
Parnell was activated from the disabled list for Thursday’s series finale against the San Francisco Giants. He is returning from Tommy John surgery, which was performed by team doctor David Altchek on April 8, 2014.
The Mets were compelled to activate Parnell despite the former closer's struggles against minor leaguers because his 30-day rehab clock had expired. Parnell said the Mets “talked about” extending his minor league stay, but never formally asked.
As a player with five years of major league service, Parnell could veto a demotion to the minors.
“He feels he’s ready,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “He’s had some decent outings, some that have been a little rougher. We’re going to find out.”
Parnell’s average fastball velocity during his major league career is 95.6 mph. However, he has not regained that zip while working toward a return.
Manager Terry Collins said Parnell’s fastball sat at roughly 92 mph during his recent minor league appearances. Perhaps adrenaline from being back in the majors will add a little oomph, but Parnell looks like he will have to rely more on accuracy and less on velocity in his return.
“I’m just going to go out there and throw,” Parnell said. “The ball has been coming out really well. The radar gun is not showing it. It’s not something I’m really concerned about. As far as my fastball command, it’s been good. The ball is coming out of my hand really well. So I think everything else is going to build off of that.”
Parnell’s minor league numbers have not been pretty. In a combined 15 appearances between Class A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, Parnell had an 11.57 ERA. In 14 innings, he allowed 22 hits, 14 walks, hit one batter and had three wild pitches.
The minor league work was interrupted early this season by a forearm issue.
Parnell said he was working on perfecting his pitches, not concerning himself with results.
“The results of the games weren’t a big issue for me because I would go out there and try to work on one particular pitch,” he said. “I would throw that pitch no matter what situation it was with the hitters. So they knew what was coming. It is what it is. They hit it. So what? I was trying to get better so I could be here today.”
Parnell said he was more concerned with how he would feel working back-to-back days, which he did on two occasions with the B-Mets.
“When you’re going through a rehab assignment, the goal is at the end of that rehab assignment to have all of your stuff and be healthy,” Parnell said. “My biggest concern was the second day, being able to throw and not have much soreness. Each time that happened, I was happy."
Collins said he would like to get Parnell into a game quickly, ideally with a clean inning. The manager added that Parnell’s veteran leadership will be welcome in the bullpen and in the clubhouse.
One thing is clear: Parnell will not dislodge Jeurys Familia from the closing role, even though Parnell recorded 22 saves in 2013. Not that Parnell expressed displeasure.
“I’d rather keep him there,” Parnell said about Familia. “I think he’s figured that out right now. We’ll let him keep it.”
As for his road back, Parnell concluded: “It’s definitely a grind. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve done -- mentally and physically. A year and a half goes by so slow. And when you want to compete, not being able to compete is tough. I’m glad it’s over with. I still have some work to do. But it’s going to be easier to do it here.”