- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Terry Collins met with Bobby Parnell back in January at the Mets’ spring-training complex after the closer reported early to camp and advised Parnell to return at a cautious pace from Sept. 10 herniated-disk surgery.
Don’t rush. Don’t compromise the recovery by fighting through discomfort during rehab.
New York Mets
“I said, ‘We’re going to do this real slow. And when you think you’re ready, we’ll put you out there,’” Collins recalled after Sunday’s 8-2 win against the Atlanta Braves at Tradition Field. “He thought he was ready today. So we got him out there.”
On Sunday, Parnell made his first game appearance since last July 30. He allowed a leadoff double in the ninth to Mark Hamilton. Teammates Matt Clark and Kevin Plawecki then committed errors that resulted in the bases loaded with none out.
“The last few pitches to Greene there at the end, when everything kicked in, the ball was sharp coming out and moving late,” Parnell said. “And the curveball was even good that he didn’t swing at. I think that at-bat really showed what I could do, to me. That felt like a good at-bat.”
Parnell had not been scheduled to pitch Sunday, but he requested the game action. He had pitched in an intrasquad game Thursday. But that event, and his recent bullpen sessions, just were not replicating what he could experience in a game to test his recovery.
Collins expects Parnell will get six or seven more game appearances over the next three weeks to prepare for the season.
“The second gear hadn’t been there,” Parnell said about his work prior to Sunday. “It was just: Throw strikes and work on your mechanics. I really wanted to know what my mechanics were going to be like in a pressure situation, in an adrenaline situation. I wanted to go out there and face hitters and find that.
“I’m excited. I’m happy,” Parnell continued. “I’m glad everything went well and got it behind me and can move on to the next one.”
Collins labeled it a “huge step” to have Parnell return to game action and demonstrate he is healthy.
The bottom line: Although Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth combined to toss three scoreless innings Sunday, there is a healthy skepticism about what they can contribute. So the only viable alternative to Parnell as closer may be Vic Black. And that’s a lot to ask, since Black has never regularly handled ninth innings at the big-league level.
“Probably, if there’s a bright spot the entire game, that was it, to see him out there for the first time and really see him let loose,” Collins said. “He’s been a little tentative in the pen and I understand it. He threw the ball great. The last five or six he let the ball go good.”