Saving the Mets? Bobby Parnell and the Mets' Future Ninth Inning Options

Matt EspositoCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2010

Is Parnell's improving heat worthy of the Mets closing gig?
Is Parnell's improving heat worthy of the Mets closing gig?Doug Benc/Getty Images

From listening to the game on the radio Wednesday night, I’m not entirely sure that I can trust that Houston radar gun.

Nonetheless, I really have no other choice.

I still got very excited over the fireballs that Bobby Parnell tossed over two scoreless innings against the Astros.

It made me wonder.

How often will Parnell be able to throw at or over 100 miles per hour? He hit an unprecedented 103 on the radar gun in question. He struck out three in those two innings of work.

It makes me wonder if he is ninth inning material.

In 24 innings pitched this season, he has struck out 25 with an ERA of 3.38. He’s only walked six this year as well. His command has improved considerably since last year.

As one of the biggest standouts, the closing duties could fall into his hands, along with left-handed teammate Hisanori Takahashi.

At this point, the role should belong exclusively to Parnell, especially if his arm can continue to develop. Takahashi, 35, won’t likely last a long time on the Mets pitching staff, especially with the upcoming free agent class of relief pitchers.

If Parnell could prove to be a force in the ninth in throughout the remainder of the 2010 season, he could be installed into that role for the long term. The Mets need to determine that as soon as possible, so there can be some solidity generated for the back end of ball games.

Speaking of the 2011 free agent class, the relievers that could be out there look intriguing. Maybe the future Mets closer is not yet on this ball club.

Either way, it really looks like the Mets could have an opportunity to actually bolster the pen in the off-season, if GM Omar Minaya even realizes it.

Some of the better-looking relievers that will be on the market include Grant Balfour, Matt Guerrier, Scott Downs, and Matt Thornton.

Thornton has a club option, but he has always been viewed as having the potential to close. With any luck for the Mets, he won’t return to the White Sox. In that case, the Mets should give him the opportunity he has deserved. His strikeout numbers have increased on a yearly basis. For three seasons now, his ERA has been below 3.00.

Balfour, Guerrier and Downs might not be best suited for the closer role, but all three have spent the bulk of their years in the AL.

Guerrier doesn’t throw much heat, but he has flourished as a setup man during the last two seasons.

Downs has been a consistent southpaw up in Toronto for years.

Balfour has developed pretty well too.

The Mets should look into trying these guys out at Citi Field next year because this bullpen has been anything but reliable on a regular basis.

There will be some options for the Mets in the off-season to figure who can close games in the long term.

At the moment, however, the organization must begin to prime Bobby Parnell for that role. If he gets the regular situational experience he needs, and even produces, his hard-throwing future could become even brighter and meaningful for the Mets.