LOS ANGELES -- It was just one inning, one save, one small moment of success. But Bobby Parnell's 1-2-3 ninth inning Thursday signaled to the Mets that he might have the skill set necessary to become a lockdown closer, after all.
"I've failed in the role a few times," Parnell said, referring to his stint as closer late last season. "Kind of looking back, I think I was trying to do too much. So I didn't go out there and try to strike anybody out. I just went out there and tried to get early contact, and it paid off."
Also notable was the fact that Parnell did not strike anyone out in his inning of the Mets' 3-2 win over the Dodgers, despite dialing his fastball as high as 101 mph. Though Parnell is still striking out just shy of a batter per inning, he has made an effort this season to generate contact earlier in counts, instead of attempting to throw every one of his pitches by opposing batters.
"Growing up, you look at great closers, and that's what they do is strike people out," Parnell said. "I don't look at myself as that kind of pitcher."
"As long as he continues to realize it's all about the location of his pitches, if the velocity's there that night, great," manager Terry Collins said. "You're not going to hit that guy. At 101, you're not going to get a good swing on him."
Collins believes it helps Parnell to know that regular closer Frank Francisco will eventually return to his role, as soon as he is done recovering from a strained left oblique -- a process that should take until the end of June, but not likely much longer than that. Because Francisco was pitching quite well prior to his injury, converting nine of his last 10 save opportunities and posting a 1.26 ERA over that span, there is little chance of Parnell stealing his gig for good.
"When Frankie comes back, if he's throwing like he was, that's his job," Collins said. "That's why we brought him here."
But Francisco's $12 million contract runs only through next season, whereas Parnell is under team control for at least three more seasons. All of which is to say that the right-hander's current performance could dictate whether the Mets ultimately see him as a long-term ninth-inning solution.