LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Mets should soon have a much better idea of whether Bobby Parnell can be their Opening Day closer.
Parnell, who underwent surgery in September to remove a herniated disk from his neck, is scheduled for a checkup next week with the doctor who performed his operation. If all goes well, according to Mets manager Terry Collins, he could be cleared to resume baseball activities for the first time since his surgery.
"We've got to wait to see how he shows up, where he's at in a month," Collins said, noting that he expects Parnell to report to Spring Training as early as January. "He hasn't done much yet, so he's got to get himself in shape, get his legs underneath him and start throwing. We'll just have to wait to see."
Enjoying a breakout season prior to his injury, Parnell saved 22 games in 26 chances with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 44 batters in 50 innings and walking 12. But he lost significant weight following his surgery, eliciting concern from Collins.
Given that uncertainty surrounding Parnell, the Mets are understandably making contingency plans. The team has checked in on late-inning free agents Chris Perez and Mitchell Boggs, according to a source, though it may be another few weeks before general manager Sandy Alderson strikes any deals. Ideally, the Mets would like to add one veteran to a mix of young relievers that includes Parnell, Vic Black, Jeurys Familia and Gonzalez Germen.
Other Opening Day bullpen candidates are Josh Edgin, Scott Rice, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni. Mets officials at the Winter Meetings have been talking up in particular the potential of Walters, who is 26 -- old for a prospect -- but who struck out more than a batter per inning at Double-A Binghamton while leading the Minors with 38 saves.