With Francisco on DL, Mets trust Parnell to close

With Francisco on DL, Mets trust Parnell to close

With Francisco on DL, Mets trust Parnell to close
NEW YORK -- An injury to Frank Francisco has once again opened the door for Bobby Parnell to become the Mets' closer.

The Mets on Sunday placed Francisco on the disabled list with a left oblique strain and plan to proceed with Parnell in the ninth inning until Francisco is healthy. Francisco, who underwent an MRI exam on Sunday after first feeling the injury on Friday night against the Yankees, will not be eligible to return until July 8, the day before the All-Star break. To replace him on the roster, the Mets activated right-hander Ramon Ramirez from the DL.

Asked if he felt any better Sunday than he did on Saturday night, when he was unavailable out of the bullpen, Francisco replied, "Yeah. I can walk straight."

"Even if it's a big thing, there's nothing you can do about it," added the 32-year-old closer, who missed time in Spring Training with a knee injury and has been to the DL six times since 2009. "Just try to fix it and come back as soon as possible and do whatever you can do to keep fighting here."

For as long as Francisco is sidelined, the Mets will turn to Parnell -- an unpopular choice with the fan base but statistically the team's best reliever. Working mostly as a setup man, Parnell entered Sunday having struck out 30 batters in 30 innings, posting a 3.30 ERA, walking eight batters and generating ground balls more than 50 percent of the time. Among big league pitchers with at least 30 innings pitched, one strikeout per inning and no more than 2.40 walks per nine innings, Parnell has an ERA that ranks ninth behind names such as R.A. Dickey, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Greinke and Cole Hamels.

"He's been throwing very, very well," manager Terry Collins said. "I like [that] the velocity's starting to come up, still with good command of it. His breaking ball's still sharp. He's throwing it for strikes. I just like the fact that he can challenge hitters with that real good fastball and have some success with it."

But Parnell's reputation took a hit last year when the Mets gave him a shot at the closer's role. The right-hander subsequently blew three saves and lost his job in less than a month, prompting the club to recast him as a middle reliever this spring.

Now, the Mets will try him again at closer, even if that means thrusting other relievers into unfamiliar roles. Specifically, Miguel Batista should continue to see plenty of eighth-inning opportunities, while struggling relievers Ramirez and Jon Rauch may appear in key seventh-inning spots.

"You kind of like to know who the bridge is to get to this guy," Collins said. "When you lose that guy, now it disrupts all the little pieces that you had in place to get there. It puts guys in different roles and different situations, and it can really affect you. But we're going to have to deal with it."