One of Terry Collins' first moves in spring training was to inform Bobby Parnell that he would serve as the Mets' closer.
Since that day in Florida, Parnell has wholeheartedly embraced the role, preparing himself for the pressure of getting the final three outs of the game. Even during Grapefruit League games, Parnell sat in the bullpen alone early in games, getting himself in the right place to seize the opportunity.
So when the Mets turned to Parnell in the ninth inning Monday night to close out a 2-1 Subway Series victory over the Yankees, the hard-throwing righthander hardly flinched.
"It was a small personal victory just to get that save," Parnell said.
In the boxscore, it will go down as Parnell's eighth save of the season, his sixth in a row. It will go down in the record book as a scoreless appearance that lowered his ERA to 1.93. But in reality, the save represented an important step in his maturation as a closer.
"If you're going to pitch in this city and you're going to be a closer in this city, you've got to pitch in big, big-time situations," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "This isn't a playoff game, but this is the Subway Series. And it means a lot to a lot of people. And if you go out there and pitch like Bobby did in the ninth inning, against some tough lefthanded hitters, I think he's come of age for sure."
Frank Francisco's struggles with injury and performance opened the door for Parnell, who for the first time was given assurances that the closer's job would remain his, even if he hit a few speed bumps along the way. It's part of the reason Collins made sure to declare Parnell the closer early in spring training.
"It gave me time to mentally prepare myself, to know that I was going to be in these situations and that I was going to fail at times," Parnell said. "I'm not really scared of failure but it's not something I want to do. So I go out there and pitch aggressive, knowing that the opportunity to fail is there. I think that helps me pitch better."
"He hasn't pitched in a game like tonight," Collins said. "I think this is another big step for him to move forward in this role, which I think he's obviously taken. I think he's going to keep it and I think he's going to be a good one for a long time."
It was his seventh career appearance in the Subway Series but his first as the closer.
Said Parnell: "I definitely enjoyed that one a little bit more than the other ones."