Ever since it was first bedazzled by Bobby Parnell’s 100-mph heater, Mets brass was convinced it had a potentially dominant closer in the righthander. The problem was convincing Parnell himself he had that in him.
Apparently, this is still the case as Terry Collins elected to name Parnell his closer for 2013 in gradual stages Tuesday on the first spring training reporting day for the Mets. First, Collins told the camp media horde that Frank Francisco was still his closer unless he was physically unable and then it would be between Parnell and newly acquired veteran Brandon Lyon, who has had plenty of experience closing out games in the past with Houston, Arizona and Toronto. But then, a few hours after that proclamation, Collins went on Mike Francesa’s WFAN radio show and abruptly blurted out that Parnell was unequivocally his closer. Up until then, the Mets manager still hadn’t delivered the happy news to Parnell — which didn’t occur until a phone call he made to the 28-year-old reliever later that night.

Now only a conspiracy theorist would suggest Collins truly wants Parnell to be his closer but just doesn’t want to unnerve him by flat out anointing him. After all, a late-season, garbage-games string of success last year aside, Parnell needs to provide a sufficient body of evidence that he has the inner-makings for the job. Indeed, after word got out in the Met clubhouse Wednesday morning of Collins’ confirmation call to Parnell and the media converged on Parnell when he arrived at his locker, a distinct deer-in-the-headlights look came over his face. After fending off the inevitable questions about his past failures as a closer, particularly two years ago when he blew six of his 12 save opportunities, Parnell turned the conversation to the last two months of last season, when he had an 0.75 ERA and two saves — mostly in closer situations — in his last 13 appearances and didn’t blow a save after July 17.

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