Minor League Report: Robert Parnell

Parnell adapting well to new culture

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Robert Parnell enjoys hunting and fishing, which aren't exactly popular pastimes in Brooklyn. So in 2005, when fate and circumstance forced him to trade Carolina's conifers for Coney Island's concrete, he felt a bit out of place.

"It was a big-time culture shock," Parnell said. "To be up there, it's just a different way of life, fast-paced. You're always looking left and right. You don't know what's going on."

Not that he was about to go back. The Mets plunked Parnell in Brooklyn after they selected him in the ninth round of the First-Year Player Draft that summer, which was perhaps a bit generous. Earlier in the year, Parnell had posted some ugly numbers on his way out the door of Charleston Southern University -- a 3-5 record and 8.86 ERA to cap his junior season.

The year before, Parnell was 1-6 with a 6.82 ERA, and the year before that, he finished 2-4 with a 4.76 ERA. The trend was bad. But his fastball was good, his slider and changeup had promise, and the Mets saw potential. Parnell saw an opportunity.

"That's the big thing -- they had faith in me," he said. "I just don't want to let those guys down. I want to show that what they saw was real."

Brooklyn was real, to be certain, and after Parnell left his native Carolinas to head to the big city, everything changed. His first summer with the Cyclones produced a 1.73 ERA in 14 starts and one relief appearance, and affirmed his status as a top prospect within the organization. The right-hander blazed his way up to Double-A last season, then earned an invitation to Mets camp this spring.

"I saw it as a new beginning in Brooklyn," Parnell said. "I saw it as a chance to show what I could really do and prove that I was there for a reason."

Parnell should start this season back in the high Minors, with a chance to crack the Major League roster by 2009. That, of course, would happen in Queens -- not quite Brooklyn, yet still another adventure for the self-proclaimed "laid-back country guy" to endure.

Taking advantage: The endless string of injuries in Mets camp this season -- as of Thursday, 15 and counting -- has created a curious by-product. Top prospect Fernando Martinez, the jewel of the Mets' otherwise thinning farm system, has been able to log serious playing time against big league competition at the age of 19.

Heading into Thursday, Martinez had amassed 20 at-bats -- more than every Mets regular, and more than all but three other teammates.

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He had relished the opportunity even before Wednesday afternoon, when he doubled and scored against the Dodgers to push his Grapefruit League average up to an even .300.

"I try to get better here," Martinez said. "I try every day. I play hard. This is my game."

Cash Register: The odds of Steven Register defaulting back to Colorado's farm system are decreasing by the day. Given Register's success so far this spring -- four scoreless innings and counting -- and the slow recovery of right-handed setup man Duaner Sanchez, the Mets are becoming more and more enamored with the pitcher who led the Minor Leagues in saves last season.

If he doesn't make the roster, however, the Mets will be forced to ship him back to the Rockies. Register was acquired in the Rule 5 Draft last December, the rules of which stipulate that he must spend all season on the active roster for the Mets to retain his rights.

"That's why we kind of get him in the mix a little bit," manager Willie Randolph said. "I like him. I've liked him since Day 1."

They're No. 1: Only Aaron Heilman and Mike Pelfrey remain from the team's first-round Draft picks this decade, though those two are representing the Mets just fine. Heilman remains cemented as the right-handed setup man to closer Billy Wagner, and he should retain a share of that role even if Sanchez returns strong from injury. Pelfrey, meanwhile, continues to headline perhaps the most intriguing development in camp. He's pitched five scoreless innings to date this spring, and the farther Orlando Hernandez falls behind with his recovery, the more likely Pelfrey will begin this season in the rotation.

Class of '07: Reliever Eddie Kunz, a sandwich pick in last summer's First-Year Player Draft, has made one Spring Training appearance, allowing a lone run on two hits. Second-round pick Brant Rustich is also in camp but hasn't seen game action. No other 2007 Draft pick was invited to camp.

What they're saying: "I'm not sure what the options are, but guys like Register and Kunz and the young kids, they've got the stuff." -- Randolph, on how the youngest relievers might fit into his bullpen this summer

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.