Michael Baron, Contributor
Bobby Parnell is growing and evolving into one of the better closers in the game. Last night against the Yankees, he allowed a walk with two strikeouts and converted his sixth consecutive save.
He now 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA with eight saves in 10 opportunities.
The first step for Parnell was to evolve from a thrower into a pitcher, and he was able to do that successfully in a setup role last year. He learned he could use his low 90’s fastball as an effective off-speed to his high 90’s fastball; but he also mastered the art of his knuckle-curve, which is keeping the opposition incredibly off-balance because he’ll throw it in any count. In fact, Parnell has gotten the opposition to swing at approximately 32 percent of his pitches outside the strike zone, thanks to awesome command of his fastball to setup his wicked knuckle-curve.
This past weekend at Citi Field, MetsBlog’s Rich Coutinho talked with Parnell about his success:
Rich Coutinho: Bobby, did it help that Terry Collins told you at the start of Spring Training that you were going to be the closer?
Bobby Parnell: Yeah, it gives you time to mentally prepare and get ready for what the season is going to hold. In years past, it’s been more of a last minute thing after somebody gets hurt or something like that, and you don’t really have time to prepare mentally. You’re still mentally in that role where you’re throwing every day, and when you’re a closer, you have to prepare for situations where you ‘re not going to throw for five or six days, and you still have to be on your game, so it definitely helped.
Rich Coutinho: Talk to me about the knuckle curve and the time that Jason Isringhausen spent with you. How long did it take to get that pitch, fine tune it, and get it to the point where you will throw it in fast ball counts?
Bobby Parnell: It’s been a great pitch. I learned it from Izzy and he’s had a lot of great success with it. It’s something that’s easy for me to throw because I can still throw it with my fastball arm speed and it just naturally came out as a curve ball. The adjustment period wasn’t very long. I took it and learned it in September and threw it a couple times, and it was OK. Then I went into that offseason, and that was the pitch that I was going to learn. I came into Spring Training throwing it from day one, and I threw it in situations where normally I would throw a fastball. I gained a lot of confidence in it and the ability to throw it in situations where normally I wouldn’t have anything but a fastball, so it’s been a great pitch for me.
Rich Coutinho: Your whole demeanor on the mound seems a bit different than it has been in past years, is that a valid observation?
Bobby Parnell: My confidence level is high right now. I’m in a position where I have to be on top of my game very day and I feel like I am right now. I don’t take a second thought into what I’m doing day in and day out. I take it with me on the mound, and it’s just been good so far.
Rich Coutinho: You’re in the middle of the Subway Series this week; Is Mariano Rivera someone you’ve watched a little bit and someone you’ve marveled at?
Bobby Parnell: Yeah, just growing up, you watch him. And being in New York and to be able to watch him in situations like this, it’s just fun. The Subway Series is fun for us. It’s a lot of competition, a lot of fans and it’s a good opportunity to play some good baseball. To be able to watch him in that situation and to watch him over the last few years, it’s fun to watch him pitch. Like I said, he goes out there every day and he’s on top of his game and that’s tough to do. That’s something I’m trying to learn to do, and I learn it from him.
Rich Coutinho has been covering New York sports since 1984, having worked for ABC Radio, WFAN and ESPN New York, among others. He is a special contributor to MetsBlog, and can be found on Twitter here.