The New York Mets were dealt a severe blow to an already thin bullpen. Bobby Parnell has a tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right elbow. The injury, which will sideline Parnell indefinitely, means that the next man up for the closer role is Jose Valverde.
Parnell came into the ninth inning of the Mets opening game to close out a 5-4 lead against the Washington Nationals. He completed the inning, but not before allowing a walk and a pair of hits to tie the game. The rest of the Mets bullpen was no better, as they allowed four more runs in the 10th inning. A brief rally by the Mets in the bottom half fell short, with David Wright hitting a two-out, two-run homer before the Nationals’ Jerry Blevins finished the game with his third strikeout of the inning.
The Mets closer was having velocity issues all spring, frequently sitting in the high 80’s rather than his usual 95-plus. There were two fair excuses for that drop. One is that Parnell is coming off of neck surgery that cost him much of last season. The other is that Parnell was simply not dialing it up for exhibition games. After having his fastball top out in the low 90’s in his appearance against the Nationals, it could be that his elbow has been injured the entire time.
There is a common rumor about Tommy John surgery, a procedure in which a damaged elbow ligament is replaced with another ligament from the wrist, that leads many to think the operation can increase pitching velocity. The more likely explanation for seeing pitchers come back from surgery with an increase in velocity is that they are simply healthy for the first time in a long while. Injuries had previously depleted their ability, and post-procedure they return to full strength. Perhaps Parnell has had a lingering elbow issue all spring, which only just surfaced when he increased his effort for the regular season.
No roster replacement has been mentioned by the Mets just yet, but another pitcher is surely on his way to the team. Someone will likely be called up from the Mets Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas 51’s, perhaps lefthander Josh Edgin, who has some experience on the major league club. Another option would be to try and pick up a veteran pitcher who was cut from another club after the spring, such as Randy Wolf, a solid pitcher coming off of a good spring. Wolf, who missed the 2012 season because of Tommy John surgery, has been a starter his entire career but did make a few appearances out of the bullpen in his year.
The Mets were always going to have to rely on their pitching to win games, with an offense that is just not going to score a lot of runs in its current state. Now the bullpen, already thin behind Parnell, is going to be stretched even further. Parnell is set to be re-evaluated in two weeks, but if it turns out that he is going to miss an extensive amount of time with the ligament tear in his elbow the team will be in desperate need of another quality arm.
Commentary by Brian Moore
Guardian Liberty Voice Sports Writer covering New York Baseball