Frank Francisco has been shut down with elbow inflammation, and Terry Collins has informed Bobby Parnell to prepare for the closer’s role. Collins also noted that Brandon Lyon is viewed as a setup guy.
Even before today’s turn of events, Francisco’s hold as closer was tenuous at best. If Francisco isn’t ready for opening day, Parnell will be the guy. Even if Francisco is deemed ready, there’s no guarantee he’ll be the one closing.
Francisco, 33, struggled mightily last season. He finished with a 5.53 ERA and 1.60 WHIP. Those numbers are dreadful for any reliever, let alone one who was entrusted to be the closer. Sandy Alderson stated repeatedly this winter that Francisco didn’t have a firm grasp on the 9th inning going into this season, regardless of health.
Parnell, 28 is coming off his best overall season. His ERA was 2.49 and his WHIP was 1.23. He struck out 61 batters in 68.2 innings pitched.
Some continue to question whether or not Parnell can handle the closer’s role. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen isn’t one of them. He had the following to say to Adam Rubin of ESPN:
His last 11 outings (in 2012), he didn’t give up anything. I thought his maturity changed. I thought he and [Jonathon] Niese both had breakout years last year. And I think he’s there. I think he’s ready to close.
Parnell certainly has the ability to be an effective closer. If Warthen is correct, the Francisco injury may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.