The New York Mets announced on Tuesday that their closer, Bobby Parnell, has a partial tear to the Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), also called the Ulnar Collateral Ligament (UCL), of his right elbow.
Parnell was to play a key part of the team this season, so the injury is a huge blow.
Right now it is unclear what the time scale for his return will be. Parnell received a platelet-rich-plasma injection on Tuesday to help heal the tear and speed up the recovery period. It is still not certain if Parnell will need surgery. The team said he will be reevaluated in two weeks, and if Parnell elects to have surgery, he will have Tommy John surgery, which takes a minimum of nine months to heal perhaps more than a full year.
The 29-year-old closer appeared to be healthy in spring training, although never reaching his normal velocity of around 94-95 mph. The lack of velocity was especially noticeable on Opening Day this past Monday as Parnell blew the save against the Washington Nationals in the ninth inning, allowing the game-tying hit to outfielder Denard Span. The Mets eventually lost in 10 innings, 9-7.
Parnell blamed his lack of velocity this spring on the neck surgery he had last September, and Parnell speculated his pitch speed would improve as the season progressed. This injury leaves a huge hole in an already weak bullpen.
Edgin, Reid, and Black, however, did not meet expectations and were sent to minor league camp. deGrom did perform well, but was also sent down. Instead the bullpen currently consists mostly of spare pieces like John Lannan, Kyle Farnsworth, Carlos Torres, Gonzalez Germen, and Scott Rice.
One way to alleviate this problem is to call up some of these young pitchers. Despite the team’s financial problems, and the desire to keep players longer, it is the right idea in this situation.
Coming in after the game was tied the first time in the 7th inning, Valverde struck out the batter to get out of a bases-loaded jam. In the 8th, Valverde pitched a 1-2-3 inning striking out two other batters.
Last season Valverde looked like his career was over. Pitching in 19 1/3 innings Valverde had a 5.59 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, looking like a complete shell of the relief ace that was perfect in save opportunities two seasons prior. He was sent to Detroit’s AAA minor league affiliate the Toledo Mud Hens on June 18th, and was later outright released on August 7th.
If Valverde is unable to hold the job, there is another pitcher who could potentially fill the void left by Parnell. Jeurys Famila is one of the many Mets young power arms, but he lacks consistency with his control to be truly effective. The hard throwing 24-year-old pitched very well in Spring Training, earning a spot in the bullpen.
Familia appeared in Monday’s game, and got two outs but could not get out of the 10th inning. He did not walk a batter, struck out one, but allowed two hits scoring two runs.
Neither ball was hit hard however and should have been caught. If Valverde falters, and Familia is able to limit his walks, the young flamethrower should become the closer.
Despite his good performance on Opening Day, Valverde and the rest of the bullpen is in complete flux. The issue should be addressed from within. If the Mets want to reach the 90 win goal set by general manager Sandy Alderson, the bullpen needs to be addressed immediately.
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