NEW YORK -- Even now, months before the Mets assemble in Port St. Lucie, Fla., some definition may have been added to their plans for 2010. Nothing is for certain of course, but the preference of Bobby Parnell to forgo winter ball and not pitch in a starting role seemingly will have some effect on the role he fills next season.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel says not pitching in winter ball in no way eliminates Parnell as a potential starter in 2010, and Parnell intends to be physically prepared for relieving or starting when Spring Training begins. Moreover, he expresses no preference for either role. But by not working on secondary pitches in the winter as a starting pitcher, he is more likely to stunt his development as a starter than if he gained the experience.
Parnell said Sunday extending his 2009 into November and beyond would have been too great a burden. As the Mets prepared to play their final game, he said he is physically and mentally fatigued by the workload of his first full big league season -- 68 games, eight as a starter, and 88 1/3 innings. And those numbers don't reflect the number of times he warmed up and was not summoned to relieve. He knows he pitched or warmed up 73 times in the 87 games the Mets played before the All-Star break and estimates he pitched or warmed up another 40 times after the break.
No Joba Rules or Mets' equivalent exist in Flushing.
Parnell, 25, approached pitching coach Dan Warthen and Manuel about his preference after "jostling with it for a week and a half." He said neither tried to redirect his thinking.
"They were open to it," Parnell said. "Jerry said he didn't want me to do anything that I was against.
"It's been a long season. I didn't want to go down there and be 60 or 70 percent and not get anything out of it. This way, I can be fresh for Spring Training."
Parnell was to have played in Caracas, Venezuela, with Josh Thole and Lance Broadway. He was to have left Wednesday and to have started exclusively.
Parnell's performance as a starter with the Mets was quite uneven. He made two starts -- six innings against the Giants on Aug. 14 and seven frames against the Cubs on Sept. 4 -- in which he didn't allow a run. He won the first and has a no-decision in the other, striking out 14 and allowing 11 baserunners. But in his other six starts, he produced an 0-5 record and 32 earned runs in 23 1/3 innings -- a 12.34 ERA.
His work in 60 relief appearances (52 innings) produced a 3-3 record, one save and a 3.46 ERA.
Parnell, like most pitchers who start and relieve, can get by with two pitches in relief and needs more offspeed pitches as a starter. Too often in his starts he wound up throwing mostly fastballs. That was the case in three consecutive starts against the Braves, Phillies and Cubs in August that skewed his overall starting numbers. Parnell allowed nine, five and eight runs in those respective starts of three, five and 4 2/3 innings.
Yet he hardly is opposed to starting, which he did in 92 of his 94 Minor League outings.
"I think there will be a lot of healthy guys -- starters and relievers -- in Spring Training," Parnell said. "They'll decide where I fit in."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.