HOUSTON - With each pitch Bobby Parnell threw that reached 100 mph Wednesday night, Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon probably wanted to tear up another page from Francisco Rodriguez's contract.
Parnell threw 30 pitches in a perfect two-inning relief stint in the Mets' 3-2, 14-inning win over the Astros. Fourteen of the pitches were clocked at 100 mph or better by MLB.com, including one at 103 to strike out rookie Chris Johnson.
According to the website www.brooksbaseball.net, its PitchFX tool measured that pitch at 102.5 mph. Even losing a half-mile per hour, that was the fastest pitch thrown in the major leagues this season.
"Wow," manager Jerry Manuel said last night. "Sounds like a closer to me. The thing is, you have to see that on a consistent basis. We have to find out if that's what we're going to get and with what regularity."
The radar-gun readings meant little to Parnell at the time. He said after the game that he did not know he had broken the 100-mph barrier, even though pitch speed is shown on a message board in right-centerfield at Minute Maid Park.
All Parnell knew was that he had good stuff. He retired all six batters he faced in the 11th and 12th innings, three via strikeout.
It was the kind of outing that raised eyebrows among the Mets, who lost their closer this week when Rodriguez had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. He is supposed to be healthy enough to pitch in spring training, but the Mets signaled their intention to possibly end their relationship with him when they placed him on the disqualified list and announced they were converting his contract from guaranteed to non-guaranteed.
Even if Rodriguez wins the grievance filed on his behalf by the Players Association, it's possible the Mets will look to trade him in the offseason after the Aug. 11 incident in which he was arrested at Citi Field after allegedly assaulting his fiancee's father, which the Mets say is what led to the thumb injury.
Wilpon said Tuesday that the Mets could decide to cut Rodriguez (assuming the contract stays non-guaranteed) before next season and not pay his $11.5-million salary if they have someone else to close.
"What if one of the guys steps up in the last 45 games or so here and shows he can take over the job and do a good job?" Wilpon said.
Hisanori Takahashi got the first crack at saving games in Rodriguez's absence, but the prototypical closer is a hard thrower. Someone like the 25-year-old Parnell.
"In the bullpen, that's your goal," Parnell said. "That's where you want to be."
Parnell, who pitched in 68 games for the Mets last season, started this one with Triple-A Buffalo. He was recalled June 22. Parnell entered last night with an 0-1 record and 3.38 ERA in 26 games, with 25 strikeouts in 24 innings.
"I've been throwing good here since I've been up," he said. "I've had one or two shaky outings. I feel very confident in my stuff right now. I feel I can get big-league hitters out. I know I'm throwing good and feel like I can let it loose."
What about throwing so many pitches in triple-digits? Parnell seemed pretty blasé about it.
"I'm excited about it," he said. "But today's today and tomorrow's tomorrow."