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Mets Notebook: Parnell finds confidence

In recent years, Bobby Parnell had been a conundrum for the Mets.

In recent years, Bobby Parnell had been a conundrum for the Mets. They were tantalized by the 100-mph heat in his right arm, but concerned the inherent stress of the closer’s role would weigh on his psyche.

Not anymore.

Parnell, who worked with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax during spring training, has become a reliable reliever. He is 2-1 with two saves and 15 holds in 35 innings this season. He has 34 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched, while allowing a hit per inning. In the 175 games he pitched for the Mets between 2008-2011, Parnell compiled an 8-15 record and blew 12 saves.

“He’s able to change speeds on his fastball,” Josh Thole said. “He’s able to dial it down a notch when he wants to. Command of his curveball has been very good. That’s in the back of hitters’ minds; he can throw it at any time.”

Take, for example, his mano-a-mano with Cubs catcher Steve Clevenger in the Mets’ 3-1 Saturday afternoon. Parnell got ahead of Clevenger 0-2 before throwing three straight outside corner fastballs that missed. With Cubs’ second baseman Darwin Barney on base, it was imperative that Parnell not throw an inside fastball. He didn’t. Instead, Parnell pumped 101-mph gas past Clevenger on the outside corner.

Strike three. Game over.

“You can’t come inside at that point. If the guy hits a home run to the pole side, they tie the game. You can’t get beat the pole side,” Thole said. “That’s his best pitch. We’re going to live-and-die on that.

“That’s his pitch.”

Swing of things

What has been the biggest change in the Mets’ offensive approach? Players are having success with hitting coach Dave Hudgens’ philosophy, according to Terry Collins.

The
Mets entered Sunday’s first half finale against the Cubs leading the
National League with a 3.91 pitches per plate appearance average. Only
Oakland (3.97) and Boston (3.93) have seen more pitches per plate
appearance than have the Mets, whose .329 on-base percentage ranks No. 6
in the major leagues.

It is a simple, yet effective strategy.

“We
had this idea and the guy that has to sell it is Dave Hudgens,” Collins
said in his pre-game press conference at Citi Field Sunday. “In
spring training, Dave never made [a road] trip; he hasn’t made a
trip in two years. He stays back with the guys [at the training facility
in Port St. Lucie, Fla.]. He talks about it with all the batting
practices those guys take in spring training, in the season.

“When
guys start to see it work, all of sudden it starts to carry on,”
Collins said. “We’ve certainly made it policy in the minor leagues in
order to get promoted your on-base percentage has to go up.”

Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.

 
 
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