After appearing in 68 games for the Mets in 2009, Bobby Parnell found himself in the minors out of spring training this year in part because he threw his cutter too much.
"I worked a lot on throwing cutters in spring training and I don't think that worked for me," said Parnell, who allowed 20 hits and six walks in 13 2/3 innings in exhibition games. "I think if I just stuck with my slider [as a secondary pitch] I would have been sitting better. But you know, it's just one of those things that didn't work for me and I scratched it going into the season. I'm just fastball, slider, change now."
And he's back in the big leagues, overpowering hitters with a fastball clocked as high as 96 mph. In his first three appearances, he's struck out six of 11 batters. He allowed one hit and struck out the side in a scoreless seventh Thursday and got two groundouts and a strikeout in a perfect seventh Friday.
Parnell, 25, who was recalled June 22 after the team sent Jenrry Mejia to Double-A Binghamton to work as a starter, was 1-1 with four saves and a 4.14 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo. "Understand that in the minor leagues you don't just look at his statistics," general manager Omar Minaya said. "You also look at how they do it. Are they commanding the zone? Are they throwing strikes? Are they working with a secondary pitch? He was doing all those things very well."
He also was inducing groundouts. "Instead of walking guys, I'm getting ground balls and forcing them to put it in play," he said. "I just got to attack hitters." Added Minaya: "As a reliever, if you can get strikeouts and ground balls, that's pretty good."
Parnell's 2009 began with him as a hard-throwing reliever who graduated to setup man; then he became a starting pitcher in August and September before finishing with six relief appearances. In relief, he was 3-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 60 games. In eight starts, he went 1-5 with a 7.93 ERA. "I obviously had more success as a reliever than I did as a starter, but each one of them had their different ups and downs," he said. "Right now I'm comfortable as a reliever and maybe a few years down the road I will be as a starter."
In the event that happens, he hasn't forgotten the grip on a cutter he hopes to improve. "It's a good pitch to have," he said, "but right now I feel like I can compete with what I got."