Closer job Parnell's to lose, but only when he's healthy
Collins expects Mejia, Familia, Black to compete for role this spring
SAN DIEGO -- Stressing that the closer's job is "Bobby's to lose" but also noting that Bobby Parnell could actually begin the season on the disabled list, manager Terry Collins painted the picture of a wide-open closer's competition heading into Spring Training.
Parnell, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April after making his only appearance of the season on Opening Day, has looked "absolutely tremendous" working out this offseason, according to Collins. But the Mets do not expect Parnell to climb atop a mound until the end of January, meaning that he will miss much of the Grapefruit League schedule. That sets up Parnell not only to begin the year on the DL, but to require frequent rest days once he is ready to pitch.
With all that in mind, the Mets could default to Jenrry Mejia, who filled in capably for much of last summer. But Collins instead pointed to a Spring Training competition involving Mejia, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black, with Parnell reclaiming his job whenever he is healthy.
"I love competition," Collins said. "That's why I do this. I've always said the guy that goes out and wins the job is the guy you can depend on when it comes to crunch time, because they've had to compete. So we'll just see who responds. Obviously, we know what they can do. We've seen them in game action. But let's just see what happens when something's up for grabs."
Statistically speaking, Familia had the best season of any of the candidates, posting a 2.21 ERA in 76 games and even garnering some National League Rookie of the Year support. But Mejia also thrived, saving 28 games in 31 chances with a 2.72 ERA as a reliever, and Black proved adept at stranding runners in high-leverage situations.
Any one of them, Collins said, could be the closer on Opening Day. The job will not necessarily default to Mejia simply because he succeeded in 2014.
"You've always got to be prepared for something you're not expecting to happen in Spring Training, so you have to have other options," Collins said.
Things can certainly change, and whoever wins the job may ultimately stick for the entire season. But right now, Collins still sees the ninth inning as a competition at first, then Parnell's domain once he is ready to go.
The Mets' primary closer in 2013, Parnell has a 2.82 ERA over the past five seasons, striking out nearly a batter per inning.
"Wait until you see him," Collins said. "You can tell he's been out working out. He's big and strong and we're anxious to get him back on the mound, because I think he's going to be a huge piece before the season's over."