PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — There was little fanfare for Bobby Parnell’s first appearance on a pitching mound since July 30. No call to the bullpen. No public-address introduction while he was warming up. No umpires.
Two-and-a-half hours before the Mets’ exhibition game against Miami on Saturday, the closer threw 36 batting-practice pitches on a field in the shadow of Tradition Field, in front of a handful of teammates, fans and media.
How he felt afterward was more important to the Mets than any of the gory details of their 9-1 loss to the Marlins.
“It went well. I felt good,” said Parnell, who’s recovering from off-season surgery for a herniated disk in his neck.
The Mets need Parnell. LaTroy Hawkins, who inherited the closer role when he went down, is now a Colorado Rockie, meaning the depth chart behind Parnell includes Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, who’ve seen better days, and a couple of appealing minor-leaguers with more promise than accomplishment.
No wonder pitching coach Dan Warthen was standing behind Parnell as he threw, instead of bullpen coach Ricky Bones, who usually handles those duties for other pitchers.
Warthen liked what he saw. Parnell had some problems with location, but almost all of his pitches to David Wright, Daniel Murphy and Eric Young, Jr., were down in the strike zone, always a rule of thumb for hard-throwing closers.
“It was very positive,” said Warthen.
The hitters had their moments. Wright drove a fastball that landed on the warning track in center field, then amusingly stared down Parnell.
“He was looking forward to this for a couple of days,” Parnell said.
And Murphy shattered his bat as he blistered a grounder up the middle, with the barrel falling at Parnell’s feet.
“He knew a fastball was coming, Parnell said. “He has bragging rights for now.”.
Parnell said he threw just about everything in his bag of tricks. Fastballs, split-fingers, off-speed, curves.
“I didn’t expect to be perfect,” Parnell said, “but I was down and that’s good. I’ve been taking a lot of baby steps, but this was a big mental hurdle.”
Next, Warthen said, is a light batting-practice session on Monday, followed by Parnell joining Bartolo Colon, who’s been slowed by a tight right calf, and Jon Niese, who had mild discomfort in his throwing shoulder, in a “B” game on Thursday.
Asked if he would be ready for opening day, Parnell said: “Absolutely.”