Jan 24

Could be a defining year for Parnell

One of the more interesting Mets this spring will be Bobby Parnell, who hasn’t spoken to Terry Collins about a defined role but said his aspirations of being a starter are gone.

PARNELL: Looking for breakthrough season

“I see myself as a reliever,’’ Parnell said. “I’d like to be later in the game. The seventh, eighth, ninth inning.’’

With his fastball and improving slider, speculation has him moving into the set-up role for Francisco Rodriguez, who has a $17.5 million option for 2012 if he finishes 55 games this season. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Mets limiting his appearances to get out from under that contract.

That could happen if Rodriguez doesn’t show up at camp 100 percent.

“That’s where I want to be,’’ Parnell said of his goal of someday assuming a closer role. “If he comes in hurt, I would definitely like to help the team in that role until he gets healthy.’’

Parnell said his handful of starts at the end of the 2009 season – despite his numbers – were beneficial because it gave him experience and enabled him to work on the slider.

Parnell said having a fastball that touches 100 mph. does not guarantee him taking that next step to a higher level. It is trusting that fastball and “attacking the hitters,’’ and working on his command that will improve his game. “It’s being consistent,’’ Parnell said.

Jan 20

Collins seems refreshing

The impression in talking with Terry Collins yesterday is that he’s decisive, something we haven’t always had with Mets managers.

It’s January and Collins already named his Opening Day starter and the top five of his batting order, after which you can figure the rest out. Ask most managers simple questions this time of year about the rotation and batting order and they waffle, saying it is too early, even though the answers seem obvious.

Of course, injuries, performance and match-ups can change things, but the impression is Collins wants to use a set batting order as much as possible, something Jerry Manuel didn’t always do, even when health wasn’t an issue. And, there will be no fooling around with Jose Reyes. Collins recognizes him as a premier leadoff hitter and will ride that horse.

Collins will bunch his speed in Reyes and Angel Pagan at the top of the order, go the traditional route and use his best hitter in David Wright third, utilize his power in Carlos Beltran clean-up and protect him with a right-handed bat in Jason Bay fifth. From there he’ll go with left-handed power in Ike Davis sixth, followed by Josh Thole, the second baseman and finally the pitcher.

Collins knows the landscape about the fans’ expectations and interest this time of year and fueled it with something to talk about. I hope he maintains this approach during the season when things get rough. Who wants the Mets to have eight different batting orders in ten games?

Incidentally, Chris Young passed his physical and the team will make an announcement today or tomorrow. If healthy, he should be among the top four, with Chris Capuano and Dillon Gee competing for the fifth spot. Pat Misch is on the peripheral, but he’s out of options and his best chance of making the team is as a long reliever.

The Mets are counting on Francisco Rodriguez to be healthy and stay the closer with Bobby Parnell seemingly having the inside track as the set-up reliever.

Jan 19

Collins getting ready for spring training

It was cold and rainy outside, but there was a definite feel of spring in the air inside Citi Field this afternoon when manager Terry Collins and several players played host to 25 fifth and sixth graders at the Mets’ third annual After School Sports Program.

COLLINS: Getting ready for spring training.

With spring training less than a month away, Collins touched on a myriad of issues, saying:

1) Mike Pelfrey will be his Opening Day starter against Florida. Said Collins: “He deserves it. Right now, I think Mike Pelfrey should be the No. 1 guy on this staff.’’

2) He will meet with Carlos Beltran at the start of spring training about a move to right field. Beltran will get a chance to prove he’s healthy. Collins said a decision would be made after roughly 10 games.

3) The top five in his batting order would be: Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, David Wright, Beltran and Jason Bay. Collins said Beltran and Bay are ready physically.

4) Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez are expected to be in camp and not released before. Collins said Castillo could still win the second base job.

5) With Reyes healthy, “I’ll turn him loose,’’ and he could be a 50-60 steal player again. Reyes said he’s ready for spring training, and regarding his contract situation, added that’s not on his mind. “I want to play baseball and see what happens,’’ Reyes said.

6) Could live with 150 strikeouts from David Wright “as long as he’s driving in runs.’’ Wright’s production should increase and his strikeouts decrease with a healthy Beltran and Bay behind him.

7) He is set with three starters Pelfrey, RA Dickey and Jon Niese, with and Chris Young, Dillon Gee and Chris Capuano competing for the fourth and fifth spots.

8) Will stress fundamentals in spring training, adding he’s aiming for 30 innings from the starters and 70 at-bats from the starting position players.

9) The Mets anticipate adding another left-handed reliever.

Jan 19

Pelfrey embraces ace role

PELFREY: Likes ace role.

Freshly armed with a $4 million contract to avoid arbitration, Mike Pelfrey said this morning he welcomes the ace role created by the absence of Johan Santana.

“I embrace it,” Pelfrey said this morning on WFAN. “I want to go out there and lead by example. I’ll be out there every fifth day.”

Pelfrey won 15 games last season after a sluggish spring training. However, with the expectations high, Pelfrey didn’t panic in the spring, the first sign last year of his growing maturity on the mound. He said he wasn’t worried about the spring becoming a prelude to the season.

“I felt like I was working on things,” Pelfrey said. “I was working on the split. I was getting better every time out there.”

A knock on Pelfrey in previous years was his inability to finish off hitters and innings by losing focus. Save a horrid July, he had tunnel vision in 2010. With Santana out and questions throughout the rotation, Pelfrey should be able to take another step this summer. The Mets sure think so, which is why they rewarded him with the contract.

Should Pelfrey continue to improve it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Mets try to get an extension done next winter. Pelfrey is arbitration eligible next year.

NOTE: I will be at Citi Field today for a Mets function and will post again this afternoon.

Jan 18

Mets add Young

The Mets have their man in Chris Young and with him their five-man rotation is apparently set.  That would be Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, RA Dickey, Young and either Chris Capuano or Dillon Gee.

Remember, just keep repeating to yourself it’s not about this year, it is about treading water until 2012.

The deal is for $1 million plus incentives. Coming off shoulder problems, the deal is also a gamble.

With spring training just inside 30 days away, I’m usually looking forward to the upcoming season and this year is no different. I just don’t have the same level of optimism I usually do. The Mets have given me no reason.

The Mets were a sub-.500 team that lost its ace and might not see him this season. It could also lose potentially its best bat in Carlos Beltran by midseason in a trade.

Remember, it isn’t about this year.