One of the lingering injury concerns for the New York Mets after the 2013 season was the status of closer Bobby Parnell. Parnell was shut down in August with a neck injury and was forced to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck on September 10th. Not much has emerged on him in the last few weeks, but the Mets provided an update of sorts at the Winter Meetings. While speaking to reporters as he was leaving the meetings on Thursday, manager Terry Collins said that Parnell is weeks away from being cleared for baseball activities.
Parnell, 29, went 5-5 with a 2.16 ERA and recorded 22 saves as the Mets' closer last season. The fact that Parnell has a neck injury is concerning, and the fact that Parnell is slow to recover has the Mets looking for options. The team already has Vic Black and Jeurys Familia in house as late inning options, but the loss of LaTroy Hawkins to the Colorado Rockies is looming large. The Mets have been in contact with numerous veteran relievers on the free agent market who have closing experience. The idea is for the Mets to give themselves insurance in case Parnell is slower to recover than doctors predict, as well as filling Hawkins' role in the bullpen from last season.
Parnell is expected to be ready for spring training, and if he makes it through camp with no setbacks he should resume the closer's role. The Mets will need Parnell to build on his strong 2013 season if they hope to make a leap forward towards Wild Card contention, particularly given the shakiness in the rest of the bullpen. Parnell's status is one to monitor throughout the winter as it surely impacts the Mets' strategy in the remainder of the free agency period.
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