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Parnell aims for closer job ... sooner or later

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Bobby Parnell did not say he is gunning to unseat Frank Francisco this spring training, but Parnell made it clear Monday his ultimate goal is to be a closer.

“I’m going to go out there and do my thing,” Parnell said Monday, on the day pitchers and catchers officially reported to Port St. Lucie. “Where the chips fall, they fall.”

Parnell had a solid close to the season as Francisco finished the year idle because of elbow discomfort that ultimately led to surgery in December to remove a bone spur. Parnell, now 28, went 3-1 with a .196 opponent batting average and 0.51 ERA in his final 17 appearances, which spanned 17 2/3 innings.

Bobby Parnell

Bobby Parnell

#39 RP
New York Mets

2012 STATS

  • GM74
  • W5

  • L4

  • BB20

  • K61

  • ERA2.49

“I was pleased with what happened in September,” Parnell said. “It definitely helps ending on a good note.”

If a turning point exists in Parnell’s career, it might be the knuckle-curveball Jason Isringhausen taught to Parnell in 2011. Parnell performed poorly during the final month of that season in the closer’s role after Izzy reached save No. 300, but Parnell used the weapon effectively last season.

“It’s true. It helped me a lot,” Parnell said. “It kept hitters off-balance. And I was able to throw fastballs in situations where other times they would have been hit because they were sitting on fastballs. I was able to throw that curveball early in the count and it kept hitters off-balance.”

The data show Parnell’s fastball velocity dipped last season. It averaged 95.7 mph in 2012, down from his 97.2 mph average in 2011. That was intentional.

“I definitely didn’t overthrow as many times,” Parnell said. “And that came with being able to throw that curveball. I didn’t feel like I had to ‘hump up’ and try to sneak it past them. I think that just came with being nice and easy and relaxed on the mound.”

That doesn’t mean Parnell doesn’t appreciate a good 100 mph offering every so often. Parnell topped out at 101.5 mph last season.

“I like that. Everybody likes that,” Parnell said. “But I’ve seen it in years past. You can go back and look. It’s not as effective for me as I’d have liked it to have been. So I think last year was a stepping stone in the right path. I’m going to continue to build on it. If I have 100 mph in the tank that day, then that’s good. But I’m not going to overthrow, because I feel like I can use my offspeed effectively now.”

As for building a closer’s résumé, Parnell said: “I feel like I am. That’s my ultimate goal. That’s where I want to be. I’ve had success there and I’ve had failures there. Every chance I have out there is a learning experience. I feel like every time I go out there in that situation it’s a stepping stone.”

At one point, Parnell aimed to be a starting pitcher.

“I guess I didn’t really have a goal of closing until I was in the bullpen,” said Parnell, an infielder until he was converted in college at Charleston Southern. “I was relatively wet behind the ears in pitching, because I didn’t pitch until college. I didn’t really know what my role was or where I fit in. But I felt comfortable on a mound and I felt comfortable pitching. I always felt like I was going to be a pitcher. I just didn’t know where. But I think being in the bullpen now, I see that end role as the highlight. And that’s where I want to be.”