Bobby Parnell Looks Good In Mets’ Defeat; Dillon Gee Wild

It is too soon to say much definitive about Terry Collins’ 2013 Mets other than it has the makings of a long year.

Twice this afternoon, the frustrated Mets’ manager answered seemingly innocuous questions about his roster with a curt, “It is March 8.’’

PARNELL: Making strides.

PARNELL: Making strides.

One silver thread out of today’s 3-2 loss to Detroit was reliever Bobby Parnell, who pitched a 1-2-3 sixth as he’s settling in to the closer job with Frank Francisco destined to open the season on the disabled list with a sore right elbow.

Parnell could always throw hard – sometimes in triple digits – but had trouble with command of his secondary pitches. That wasn’t the case against the Tigers.

“My curveball is working really well,’’ said Parnell. “Last year, I was inconsistent with my curveball. Today I was able to able to throw it for strikes early in the count.’’

Parnell was aggressive and attacked the hitters, and perhaps most importantly threw his curveball in counts where the hitter would normally be expecting a fastball.

“His breaking ball has really improved,’’ Collins said. “I loved his demeanor. He’s going after hitters like he knows he’s going to get them out.’’

Parnell will face another test when he goes back-to-back tomorrow.

“You want to build up your arm strength in spring training,’’ Parnell said. “It is just a mild test to tell you where you are.’’

It isn’t as mild for 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins, who is trying to hook on in the bullpen. Hawkins said he threw 25 pitches to the five batters he faced. He gave up two hits and struck out one.

Hawkins wouldn’t say he was happy, or even satisfied, for that matter.

“I got a lot of work in today,’’ Hawkins said. “It wasn’t bad.’’


GEE FEELING IT: Dillon Gee wanted to fine-tune his mechanics and was only partially satisfied with the results, giving up a run on one hit is four innings.

Not to his liking were three walks.

“Other than the walks, I felt better than (my last start, March 3 against Miami at) Jupiter,’’ Gee said. “I feel close to clicking. Maybe it’s a sixth sense, but I feel pretty close.’’

Gee was bailed out by a double play in the second, something Collins liked because he didn’t let the moment get away from him.

“He couldn’t locate all his pitches,’’ Collins said. “But, he kept his composure.’’

VALDESPIN MAKES IMPRESSION: Jordany Valdespin hurried out of the Mets’ clubhouse with two cheeseburgers on a paper plate. He didn’t stop to talk about his homer that gave the Mets a brief 2-1 lead in the seventh.

Valdespin, who is hitting .333 this spring, started in left and batted second. The previous game he hit leadoff.

Valdespin is nothing if not supremely confident, perhaps overly so. He left the clubhouse wearing a bright red cap backwards with the lettering JV 1.

Not hard to figure out what it means.

“He likes to play. He likes to be on the stage,’’ Collins said. “He plays with some flair.’’ Then, after a pause, Collins added: “There’s nothing wrong with that.’’

SIGHTS OF SPRING: One of my favorite things about spring training is seeing players I enjoyed watching as a kid.

Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling were at Tradition Field yesterday calling the game on television. At lunch today was Jim Fregosi – whom Mets remember as the player acquired for Nolan Ryan – and Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

It’s the same in every camp as the alumni visit, many as guest instructors. The Yankees and Dodgers especially like to boast their tradition.

CLASSIC LOOK: I’ve always thought the Tigers’ home whites are one of the best uniforms in sports. White with dark navy numbering with the old English “D’’ a stunningly simple, but elegant look.

Along with the Tigers there are the home uniforms of the Dodgers, Yankees and Red Sox. I do like the Mets’ pinstripes with the team name in script.

The simpler the better when it comes to uniforms and caps. That often makes the most powerful statement.

METS NOTEBOOK:  Travis d’Arnaud was one of three Mets hit by Luke Putkonen. He had his right elbow wrapped with an ice back but said he was all right. … The Mets’ offense continued to flounder with five hits. The Mets left 11 and went 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. They also struck out 14 times. … Tigers manager Jim Leyland told Detroit reporters he doesn’t intend to retire. … Jeremy Hefner, Brandon Lyon and Parnell are among those scheduled to pitch tomorrow against Houston. Shaun Marcum, Hawkins and Pedro Feliciano will work Sunday. The Mets are back in Lakeland Monday with Jonathan Niese starting against Justin Verlander.

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