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Parnell could prove valuable in Tigers' bullpen

Former closer escapes bases-loaded jam in third appearance for Detroit
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The sight of Bobby Parnell spiking a throw into the ground on a comebacker could have been the defining image of a disastrous outing Tuesday night. What the Tigers reliever did after that, the way he threw the ball to escape a ninth-inning jam, made it something he could smile about.

The bigger key for the former Mets closer is whether his outing -- stranding the bases loaded to give the Tigers a chance to rally from a two-run deficit during a 3-2 win against the Blue Jays -- is something he can feel confident about going forward.

Full Game Coverage

DETROIT -- The sight of Bobby Parnell spiking a throw into the ground on a comebacker could have been the defining image of a disastrous outing Tuesday night. What the Tigers reliever did after that, the way he threw the ball to escape a ninth-inning jam, made it something he could smile about.

The bigger key for the former Mets closer is whether his outing -- stranding the bases loaded to give the Tigers a chance to rally from a two-run deficit during a 3-2 win against the Blue Jays -- is something he can feel confident about going forward.

Full Game Coverage

"Felt good," Parnell said about his third outing with Detroit. "The direction we've been going through for the last two months is the right direction, and I'm feeling better than ever."

Parnell signed with the Tigers in February after he didn't get a Major League offer in the offseason. He re-signed with Detroit near the end of camp after opting out to test the market, then went to work at Triple-A Toledo.

The results with the Mud Hens were mixed for Parnell, with 21 hits and 11 walks over 20 1/3 innings. He kept the ball in the park, but he operated with a lot of traffic while doing it.

Parnell's pitching was a work in progress. He made an adjustment by lowering his arm angle after trying hard to pitch with his arm higher.

"I know it sounds weird, but I was trying to really get on top of the ball," Parnell said, "and that's where my misses up were. So I tried to soften that up a little bit, and I got down and away very easily. Couple of balls I actually spiked. It was very easy to get down and away. Things are going in the right direction."

Video: TOR@DET: Parnell spikes ball into mound on throw

The breaking ball, in particular, was effective for him Tuesday. He struck out Jose Bautista with it for his first out after his throwing gaffe put runners on first and second. A wild pitch and an intentional walk gave Parnell no room for miscue when Edwin Encarnacion stepped to the plate, but he followed a 94-mph fastball with back-to-back breaking balls to fan him. Once Russell Martin flied out to right, Parnell had escaped.

It's early, but Parnell's velocity is up from last year. More importantly, so is his effectiveness.

"Over the last few months, I made some good adjustments on the mound and with my pitches," Parnell said. "I feel like it really paid off. The ball's coming out really well for me right now, and I have a lot of confidence on the mound, and I think it paid off big."

It comes as the Tigers are trying to learn more about whether Parnell can help them long-term. They called him up just before his latest opt-out date.

"We had seen him in Spring Training, and he was in Toledo for a while," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "We know he's been a closer in the big leagues, and he's pitched in high-leverage situations, but he hasn't done it in a few years. It was good to see him do that, because when you see things like that, you think, 'Well, maybe this guy can help us at some point in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning.'"

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Detroit Tigers, Bobby Parnell