NEW YORK -- "Relax, everyone," Bobby Parnell seemed to be saying Thursday on a state-of-the-closer conference call from Florida. Parnell is healthy. Parnell is throwing. Parnell is ready to lock down the ninth inning again.
"Confidence is high," is how he put it.
And there are reasons for such optimism. Parnell never lost 30 pounds, as manager Terry Collins estimated shortly after his surgery to replace a herniated disc in his neck. Instead, the closer said, he dropped maybe 15 or 20 pounds after the operation. That weight is all back.
Parnell also never lost the confidence he developed during his breakout 2013 season, which saw him seize the ninth-inning job with a 2.16 ERA and 22 saves in 26 chances.
"In my head, I feel like I'm still the closer," Parnell said. "I'll go along with that until told otherwise. I feel healthy. I feel like there's plenty of time to get into baseball shape -- that's why I came down [to Florida] early to make sure that I didn't have to jump into anything too hard, I could come in here and take my time. I still envision myself in that same role."
Still, for Parnell, much work remains between now and Opening Day on March 31. Due to the nature of his surgery, Parnell has not been able to lift weights as he normally would. He plans to begin doing so in Florida under the watchful eyes of Mets trainers, but will not be able to perform squats or his usual lower-body routine. Parnell worries that the lack of lower-body strength puts him at risk of potentially aggravating an upper-body muscle once he ramps up his throwing program.
But that is why Parnell came down to Florida in mid-January, more than a month before the Mets' official report date. He not only wanted to ease his way into his running, lifting and throwing workouts, but also to do so under professional supervision. By the time most Mets pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Feb. 15, Parnell should be back to his usual baseball shape.
Then Parnell will begin the process of reestablishing himself as a ninth-inning stalwart. Though the Mets are pleased with Vic Black's development as a late-inning option and still plan to sign at least one veteran with closing experience, Parnell is clearly Option A. Arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, he remains under team control for three more seasons and is one of the organization's most successful homegrown arms.
Heading into Spring Training, Parnell's health is the only issue -- if it even remains an issue at all.
"At this time, I don't feel like there's any question that I will be ready," Parnell said. "I'm down here early. I feel good. I've been throwing. I've not felt sore after throwing. The only thing I'm going to take my time with is lifting weights and getting my strength back up, but right now I feel like my arm's strong, I feel like my body's put together. There's plenty of time between now and Opening Day in March to get in shape. I feel like everything's been on time, and I'm ready to get there. There shouldn't be any problem to do that."