MLB: Parnell sees positive signs
By Bret Strelow
Bobby Parnell and his team both struggled in June, but the New York Mets have opened this month with a pair of morale-boosting victories.
Parnell hopes to bounce back in similar fashion.
“The last 21/2 weeks it’s been a little bit of a struggle for me, and I think it’s because of fastball command,” Parnell said. “I started leaving some balls over the plate and up, and when you do that against these guys you’re not going to get away with a lot.
“I’ve been working on getting the ball back down and getting my command back. The last three or four days I’ve really made leaps and bounds I think. I got some rest with guys coming up, and I’m starting to feel fresh. I’m ready to get back out there and hopefully turn it around. It’s a new month, and we’re undefeated in the month of July.”
New York went 9-18 in June, when Parnell’s ERA increased by more than three runs to its current mark of 5.22.
The Mets (39-39) snapped a five-game losing streak with a 1-0 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday and prevailed 9-8 in 10 innings at Pittsburgh on Thursday. They trail Florida and Philadelphia by one game in the National League East race heading into tonight’s series opener with the Phillies.
Mets manager Jerry Manuel met with his team for a half-hour after a loss to the Brewers on Tuesday night. Players usually take separate taxis to the stadium during a road trip, but they traveled together on a bus from their hotel to Miller Park on Wednesday.
“Being a day game, we weren’t taking BP, and we wanted to try to change some stuff up,” Parnell said. “It was definitely a little different experience, but it was good. We had fun doing it and changing it up a little bit. I think it’s something we needed. Everybody was relaxed and got to sleep in a little bit.”
Parnell has credited good fastball command with playing an important role in his strong start to the season.
The first two months were a resounding success ó he emerged from a scoreless outing on June 7 with a 1.96 ERA in 28 appearances. An elbow injury sidelined fellow reliever J.J. Putz, and Parnell moved into the eighth-inning role as a set-up guy for closer Francisco Rodriguez.
Starting with an appearance against the Phillies on June 9, Parnell pitched eight times in 13 days. He suffered three losses and saw his ERA rise to 5.00 during that difficult stretch, which ended with a rough outing against Tampa Bay.
Parnell, pitching for the fifth time in six days, took the mound in the seventh inning with a 5-4 lead and allowed a two-run homer to B.J. Upton. All four Tampa batters who faced Parnell reached and scored.
“You don’t get many opportunities to play this game, and I’m not one who’s going to ask for a day off because I’m tired,” Parnell said. “It’s not something I want to do. When my name’s called, I want to be ready to go and do my job.
“The last 21/2 weeks were a struggle for me and I wasn’t getting the job done, so it’s been kind of aggravating. Jerry equates it to not having enough rest, but I want to go out there and get outs and perform. I don’t want to be looking for an excuse. I want to be looking for ways to get guys out.”
Parnell, who went through the minors as a starter, entered Thursday tied for seventh in the NL with 39 appearances even though he had pitched only three times in the previous 10 days.
He allowed two runs in one inning against Milwaukee on Monday but said he’s encouraged by some recent adjustments.
“Sometimes when you get tired your arm will drop and get in a bad spot,” Parnell said. “You really have to focus on keeping your arm in the same spot and keeping it where it was when it was fresh. I think that’s what I kind of got out of a habit of doing, keeping my arm in a good slot.
“The last week I’ve really worked on keeping my arm on top of the ball where it needs to be where I feel in control to throw the ball where I need to.”
Injuries to starting pitchers Oliver Perez and John Maine have altered New York’s rotation and taxed the bullpen. First baseman Carlos Delgado, shortstop Jose Reyes and center fielder Carlos Beltran are also on the disabled list.
Manuel has said the Mets could benefit from the acquisition of an offensive threat like Mark DeRosa, whose name popped up alongside Parnell’s in trade rumors before Cleveland sent him to St. Louis, but a rough month didn’t knock New York out of the NL East picture.
“We definitely have some key injuries, but we have a lot of talent that can fill in those positions,” Parnell said. “The guys we have on the team right now that are healthy are definitely able to get the job done. It’s very nice to see guys come in here and perform the way they’re performing and pick up the guys that are a little banged up.”