Parnell Gets Comfortable

Bobby Parnell struggled through an inconsistent 2006 season, mostly due the effects of his unsatisfying spring training a year ago. Off to a sharp start this year, Parnell is poised to make his first full season in St. Lucie the best of his young career. Thanks to a refreshed elbow and a renewed approach on the mound, the 22-year-old stands to make his first significant splash within the system.

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In his five starts this season, he held just a 1-1 record, but his 1.88 ERA and .228 opponents batting averages were the most visible signs of his fast start. Thanks to a healthy, progressive camp; Bobby Parnell has found the confidence and comfort which he possessed during his successful 2005 rookie campaign with the Brooklyn Cyclones.

"Last year, I came into spring training hurt. This year, I got to experience spring training to its fullest, had a month to get ready and get my arm in shape. Last year, I rushed back from injury and was thrown into the fire."

"The Mets do a good job of getting our arms in shape. It's easier to (pitch well) when I have time to get ready. My confidence was built seeing live batters and working the whole month. With this spring training, my arm has come in stronger which helped my velocity. I feel loose and in control on the mound," he detailed.

The full spring workload certainly has helped his repertoire mature. The peak velocity on his fastball returned; his fastball has topped off at 94-95 miles per hour again. His slider, his out pitch, has the tilt and bite required to baffle hitters from both sides of the plate. Currently, it is good enough for Parnell's battery mate, Drew Butera, to deem it "unhittable" at times. The effectives of the two pitches', his bread and butter, allowed him to further his second tier pitches and become a definitive pitcher.

He is a groundball pitcher by trade and he is getting back to the basics of what will aid his ascension up the system's ladder. His sinking two-seam fastball raised his groundball-to-fly ratio to 2.25 to 1 in April. That number points directly to the style of pitching he aims to achieve.

He earns his share of strikeouts but he pitches to contact and relies on his defense. His .148 opponents' batting average with runners in scoring position goes hand-in-hand with his groundball production.

"I've always looked at myself as a groundball pitcher; I've learned to just go after batters. I like to make the batters hit it on the ground and get themselves out," he said.

Lastly, his changeup remains in development but he assures that the pitch is rapidly improving. He looks to have greater command of the pitch which he hopes will not only keep hitters off-balance, but dissuade them from waiting for his slider. The key to his success this season could be directly tied to the pitch. The speed differentiation between his changeup and his fastball will dictate its success. Currently, his changeup sits between 83-85 mph. He acknowledges, however, the pitch still needs refinement.

"I'm still trying to get the feel for it," Parnell said of his changeup. "I think my big thing is to get my arm deception, especially with the different speeds. I'll eventually want to throw it more and more during the game and throw it for strikes."

With his mechanics in check, his ever-constant battle lies in his ability to maintain consistency. He rode along many peaks and valleys last year, but knows that he will find stability in a steady mental approach. During rough spots, he found himself breaking away from his game plan, which only perpetuated his problem. He would overextend himself to quell rallies. Now, he is steadfast in his own ability thanks to that growing confidence.

"Last year, I was pitching and I had a lot of rough outings. As the year progressed, I realized I had to stick to my game and how I want to pitch. I had to stop changing what I was doing whenever it would get rough. This year I'm staying consistent with my game plan and not wavering. It's about trusting my stuff and pitching my game," Parnell stated.

A winter stop in the Hawaiian League also added to his new, keen sense of the game. Rather unsure of what competition would be present, he arrived in Hawaii with the belief that he would encounter players looking to steer their own games in positive directions. He quickly discovered such was not the case.

He squared off against top draft picks from organizations across baseball ready for spirited action. He knew in order to make it a successful tenure in the newly reformed league, he would have to adapt. What he learned were new ways of working hitters, the counts and situations. They were ideas that would help shape the positives he has accumulated so far in 2007.

"At first, I thought it would be a league of guys who did not get enough innings in. It was surprising to see a lot of first and second round draft picks and the other great talent when I got there. It was a good thing for me to see what these batters are doing because many of them were in Double-A and Triple-A last year. It helped me how to read many of these guys. It further helped me to read a batter on the mound. Many of those things have helped me this year," he detailed.

Although he just earned an Opening Day promotion to St. Lucie this spring, Parnell has the temperament of a player beyond his young years. He has the appearance of a pitcher more at ease with his own skin and his ability. His goal is to stay on an even-keel throughout the season. If he can do that, while he develops his changeup as a legitimate and reliable third pitch, Parnell should expect to see yet another promotion next year - if not sooner.

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