Mar 05

Looking At Mets’ Bullpen; Parnell To Throw Today

Closer Bobby Parnell insists he will be ready for Opening Day, which, if it happens, is good news for the New York Mets. Parnell is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game today, pitching mostly to David Wright and Daniel Murphy.

If Parnell isn’t ready, Vic Black is first in line to be closer. However, after walking the bases loaded Tuesday, his command is an obvious issue.

PARNELL: To throw today. (AP)

PARNELL: To throw today. (AP)

Assuming a healthy Parnell, the other givens in the bullpen are Black – in a set-up role – lefty Scott Rice and Carlos Torres. That is four relievers in a projected seven-man bullpen.

Torres appears the most versatile, last year working in long relief, as a spot starter and in various match-up situations.

Early in spring training Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth were presumed to be in, but there’s no guarantee they’ll keep both, and it is difficult to say who has the edge.

For the sake of the argument, let’s say only one will make it between Valverde and Farnsworth. That leaves room for two more arms.

One would think Josh Edgin would be a factor as to give the Mets two left-handers.

That makes one more to come from Jeurys Familia, Farnsworth/Valverde and possibly Jenrry Mejia:

Familia: Has loads of potential and can throw hard. However, he hasn’t overwhelmed so far, but it is very early.

Farnsworth/Valverde: Both have outs in their contracts where they can opt to leave if they were not on the major league roster by June. Both could be worth keeping in the hope of them regaining something, and possibly act as a trade chip in July.

Mejia: The Cardinals have been successful in developing some of their power arms by first using them in the bullpen. However, the Mets have bounced Mejia from pen to starter, and he’s had elbow issues. They should think long and hard before sending him to the bullpen, especially since the numbers suggest he’s better as a starter.

While there has been little positive out of the pen to date, there’s still plenty of time. Soon, there won’t be.


Feb 12

Analyzing Mets’ Bullpen After Jose Valverde Signing

For each of the past three winters New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson has tried to construct a bullpen. Until Bobby Parnell showed signs of being the first reliable closer since Billy Wagner was traded to Boston in 2009 in a salary dump, it has been a ninth-inning adventure.

Francisco Rodriguez and Frank Francisco were tried, but their best days were in the rear view mirror. Alderson brought in another retread today with the signing of Jose Valverde to a minor league contract.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

PARNELL: Lead domino in bullpen.

He’ll compete against the masses for a spot in the bullpen. Alderson said he other day the Mets had money to spend, but after striking out on Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney, he hopes to catch an encore from Valverde.

Valverde, 35, was on the top when he converted 49 of 49 opportunities in 2011 for Detroit, but spit the bit the following year in the playoffs. He had an unimpressive nine saves in 12 opportunities with a 5.59 ERA last year.

The construction of the Mets’ bullpen depends on Parnell, who saved 22 of 29 games before undergoing surgery last September to repair a herniated disk in his neck. Parnell lost 30 pounds after the surgery, but told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s doing fine.

“Everything is feeling great, no pain,’’ Parnell said. “I mean, I haven’t done it yet, so obviously, you want to know. But we’re doing little things every day to get to that point. I’ve had no setbacks or pain or anything like that.’’

Parnell won’t be cleared for two weeks, and there is reasonable doubt he won’t be ready for the start of the season. There hasn’t been an announcement of how many innings manager Terry Collins wants to give him this spring. Normally, starters hope to get 30 innings with relievers nearly half that amount.

Vic Black, whom the Mets acquired from Pittsburgh last year in the Marlon ByrdJohn Buck deal, is first in line after Parnell. Black is 25 and throws in the mid-90s, which is a lot to like.

If Black doesn’t make it, presumably Kyle Farnsworth and Valverde are next. Assuming Black pitches well and wins the closer job, Valverde and Farnsworth will compete for the set-up role, vacated when LaTroy Hawkins left as a free agent.

In large part because of Parnell’s emergence and Hawkins’ resurgence, the Mets’ bullpen finished 22nd in the majors with a 3.98 ERA in 2013. They ranked 29th and 28th in Alderson’s first two years.

Alderson has built on the cheap, but that approach would have changed had he signed Balfour or Rodney. Joel Hanrahan is available should Alderson have the urge to spend.

Truth is, you can’t have too many pitchers – starters or relievers – in the system because there are always injuries and pitching slumps. In addition, a guy like Valverde, if he shows something, could be a July trade chip.

You never know.

Outside of the 29-year-old Parnell, Farnsworth and Valverde, we’re not talking about significant experience. The rest of the pen includes Jeurys Familia, 24, who throws in the mid-90s, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres, Ryan Reid, Jeff Walters and Cory Mazzoni, all whom throw from the right side.

The Mets’ left-handers are Josh Edgin and Scott Rice, the latter whom was a 32-year-old rookie last season after 14 years of knocking on the major league doors. The Mets also invited prospect lefty Jack Leathersich to compete for a spot.

That makes 13 relievers competing for seven slots.

“We’ve got a lot of good young arms that we like; they just don’t have much experience,’’ Alderson said. “Acquiring someone with some experience would give us some comfort going into Spring Training, but we don’t want to preclude some of our younger pitchers from getting a solid opportunity either.’’

How much comfort Valverde gives remains to be seen. He certainly didn’t make Jim Leyland’s job easier the past two years.

But, that’s what you get when you shop in the bargain bin.

Feb 03

Mets Still Looking For Bullpen Help; Add Kyle Farnsworth

How much money the New York Mets have left to spend during what is left of their offseason is uncertain, but as recently reported here, it is earmarked for the bullpen, specifically a closer as Bobby Parnell’s status is questionable.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

FARNSWORTH: Added to pen.

Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Hanrahan have been mentioned on this site. ESPN added Kevin Gregg and Ryan Madson to the table.

Farnsworth, who has pitched for the Yankees, was signed to a minor-league deal Monday and given an invitation to spring training.

At 37, he was a combined 3-1 with a 4.70 ERA last season with Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Farnsworth’s role with the Mets, assuming he makes the team, will be not as a closer but to provide depth.

Figuring Parnell will not be ready for the season, the configuration of the Mets’ bullpen will be Vic Black – the presumed closer – Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, Scott Rice, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jan 28

What Is Left In Bullpen Market For Mets

The New York Mets aren’t finished this winter, and with just over two weeks before pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie, there are pitchers still on the market.

The Mets like to play out the market to see if prices will drop and it might be worth a call to see if Bronson Arroyo or Paul Maholm still want to pitch. Both want major league contracts, and likely more than one year, something GM Sandy Alderson would be reluctant to do.

RODNEY: Mets interested.

RODNEY: Mets interested.

Ervin Santana is still on the market, but his asking price would definitely be too high for Alderson’s liking.

Usually when a player is still on the market this late it is because his salary demands are exorbitant or there’s a health issue.

I’m betting the Mets are done testing the market for free agent pitchers and would only get back in if they were to receive a call.

Relievers are a different matter.

Reportedly, after losing out on Grant Balfour, they are interested in Tampa Bay closer Fernando Rodney, 36, who won five games and saved 37 with a 3.38 ERA last season.

An ESPN report had the Mets offering Balfour a deal similar to the two-year, $12-million contract he signed with the Rays, so it stands to reason those are the beginning parameters in talks with Rodney.

That they would talk to Rodney suggests they aren’t sure Bobby Parnell, who is recovering from neck surgery, will be ready. It also indicates they might not be sold on Vic Black as a closer.

Another possibility is former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, who saved 38 games in 2010, 34 in 2011 and a combined 24 since with the Cubs and Dodgers.

Working in Marmol’s favor is that he’s 31, suggesting he has time to get it back. Marmol’s mechanics are a mess, but there’s no injury holding him back. He struck out 59 in 49 innings which shows good velocity, but in that time he walked 40 which is a huge problem.

Also working against him is that he earned $10.1 million last year. Alderson wants to sign somebody to a minor league contract, so for Marmol to sign he’ll need to get desperate.

If it is just adding bullpen depth, there’s Andrew Bailey, 29 (Boston), Jeremy Bonderman, 31 (Detroit), Bruce Chen, 36 (Kansas City), Kyle Farnsworth, 37 (Pittsburgh) and Joel Hanrahan, 32 (Boston).

Remember, those who aren’t premier free agents and are still available means they are unsigned for a reason, so it is buyer beware.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Dec 17

Can Cory Mazzoni Earn A Spot In Mets’ Bullpen?

One area the New York Mets are still working on is their bullpen, but manager Terry Collins said at the Winter Meetings one option could come from within in Cory Mazzoni.

Collins said Mazzoni, who was limited to 64 innings in 12 starts because of hamstring and elbow injuries at Class AA Binghamton, could be converted to the bullpen in spring training.

Several things could determine if a switch is made will be dependent on: 1) whether the Mets are able to sign a reliever, 2) whether they obtain a reliever in a trade involving Ike Davis, 3) Bobby Parnell’s status, and 4) how seriously they believe they could contend this season.

If one of the first two variables is reached, converting Mazzoni won’t be necessary, at least not immediately. If they don’t obtain anybody and Parnell isn’t ready, then they’ll need to add somebody.

Finally, if the Mets believe they can make a run in 2014, they might not want to entrust a bullpen slot in a rookie.

Whatever they decide, they should develop Mazzoni as a reliever in spring training because they’ll eventually need another arm out of the pen this summer.

Whether this is a permanent conversion depends on how he responds if his role is changed. Working in Mazzoni’s favor is he’s a power pitcher, with 74 strikeouts in those 64 innings. He also has good command with only 19 walks.

Assuming Parnell’s readiness following neck surgery, the Mets have six pieces in their bullpen, including Vic Black (the closer if Parnell can’t go), Scott Rice, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia.

Another possibility could be Jenrry Mejia should the Mets another starter.

I would avoid that option if possible as Mejia has pitched better as a starter and is more comfortable in that role. Plus, Mejia’s development has been hindered by injuries and by bouncing around from starting and relieving roles. I’d like to see him in the area he’s best at – which is starting – and see if he can develop there.

Yes, the Mets have young pitchers in their system, but Mejia is one of them. And, the more they can develop, the better trade options they’ll have in the future.

ON DECK: You can meet Zack Wheeler and Daniel Murphy tomorrow.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos