New York Mets: With Frank Francisco on DL, Time for Parnell to Grasp Closer Role

Matt Dienstag@MEDdaWorldStagContributor IIIJune 26, 2012

While the New York Mets have certainly been one of the most surprising teams in baseball, it's no secret that the bullpen has been their Achilles' heel to this point in the season.

Their bullpen ranks dead last among the league's 30 teams in ERA, giving up the most runs and posting a robust 5.27 ERA.

And it's not like the bullpen has been overworked to this point.

The starters have consistently pitched into the sixth and seventh innings and have even thrown five complete games, tied for most in the majors. In addition, as a collective unit, the bullpen has thrown a total of 201.2 innings, the ninth-lowest total in the big leagues.

For the most part, the talent just isn't there; however, there is one pitcher who has shown some promise. With closer Frank Francisco pitching recklessly and unreliably to this point and now headed to the disabled list with a strained oblique, Bobby Parnell has been called upon to take over the closer's role.

While Parnell has had a bit of an up-and-down season, he still possesses phenomenal potential. With an overpowering fast ball and a tough breaking pitch, Parnell has all the tools to become a great closer.

It's just a matter of him actually doing it.

Confidence issues have definitely curtailed Parnell's young career. Parnell has earned the label of a very streaky pitcher to this point—untouchable for periods of time but also very vulnerable during others. His lack of consistency is definitely confidence related and the evidence lies in his previous struggles to work himself out of ruts.

Met fans hold their breath every time Francisco takes the mound.
Met fans hold their breath every time Francisco takes the mound.Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

But with some favorable matchups on the horizon—including five more games in the next two weeks against the worst team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs—Parnell should have plenty of opportunities to close out games while Francisco is on the disabled list.

The Mets need to win a handful of these next four series', and Parnell could be a huge factor in whether or not they are able to do that.

If the Mets can get Parnell some save situations early in this week, it could build his confidence and head him in the right direction going forward.

There isn't a Met fan out there who wants to see Francisco retain his role as closer when he returns from the disabled list. If Parnell is pitching well, it may relegate Francisco to the setup role—a position he may not be happy about, but is at least better suited for.