Well that didn’t take long.
Less than 48 hours after Jerry Manuel hinted at the possibility the Mets were considering Bobby Parnell as a starter, it was announced that the young fireballer would start on Saturday night in San Diego.
So much for stretching him out.
The Mets must laugh at teams like the Yankees, who hemmed and hawed and wasted weeks “stretching out” Joba Chamberlain last year in an effort to get him conditioned for starting duty. What nonsense! These are young, strapping men with world-class athletic talent and virility — two consecutive 30-pitch outings are more than enough to get a guy ready!
Of course, Parnell will not be expected to throw more than 50-60 pitches at most. Part of the reason Livan Hernandez was hung out to dry on Thursday night was to make sure Nelson Figueroa, Tim Redding, Elmer Dessens, Brian Stokes, etc., will be available for length on Saturday night.
What’s bothersome about this knee-jerk decision is that, essentially, it says the Mets have raised the white flag on the season. Most of us knew the season was over a month ago, and Jerry Manuel gave up long before that, but the message we keep getting from the front office is that the Mets are still in it. Go ahead, keep buying tickets — the cavalry is returning soon to save the season!
Let’s face it — Parnell has exciting velocity, but not much else. Having him start in the big leagues right now is a head-scratcher — wouldn’t it make more sense to have him work on polishing his secondary stuff against minor leaguers, and away from the NYC spotlight? Many Mets fans are excited at the prospect of seeing Parnell as a starter, as if pitching in the first inning will magically make his slider consistent and cause a change-up to emerge from his hand. Unfortunately, what you’re going to see in 4-5 innings is the same rollercoaster you’ve been seeing over the course of 4-5 relief outings. Parnell will look lights-out one inning, deer-in-the-headlights the next. We’ll see the baseball traveling at 100-MPH going toward the plate at one moment, and traveling away from it at the same speed moments later. No one doubts Parnell’s electric arm and future potential. But he doesn’t have the repertoire nor command to sustain a second look by a big-league lineup.
It’s exactly the same thing the Mets did with Mike Pelfrey in 2006 and 2007 — force-feeding a one-pitch pitcher at the big league level on the theory that such an experience will accelerate development. Three years later, Big Pelf remains an inconsistent enigma — some days he’s spectacular, others he’s awful. So I’m not convinced this “into the fire” approach is a great idea. And some would argue that Pelfrey was more advanced in ’06 than Parnell is now.
I would like to see Parnell succeed, and I wonder whether facing big leaguers right now — at a time when he obviously needs to develop a secondary pitch — will retard, rather than accelerate, his development. At the same time, I also wonder, what is the holdup on Bradley Holt? If the Mets believe in this force-feeding strategy, then promote Holt as well. Let’s see both kids zip their 95+ heaters for as long as they can. Good teams will sit on the #1 and tee off relentlessly but that’s part of the positive learning experience, isn’t it?
The 2010 season begins on Saturday night. The talking point is that Bobby Parnell “gets stronger as the game goes on”. Let’s hope he stays in long enough for us to see that happen. Further, let’s pray he exits the game 100% healthy.