NEW YORK -- All spring, the Mets touted Bobby Parnell as their new closer, officially handing him the job after Frank Francisco sustained a setback in his rehab from right elbow surgery. The Mets were excited to see what Parnell might be able to do in the role.
A week in, they're still waiting. Parnell was one of only two big league closers not to see a save situation over the first week of the season, joining Houston's Jose Veras. The difference, of course, is that the Astros won just one of their first six games, while the Mets won four.
"I'm ready to get out there in a save situation, but I just want to win," Parnell said. "It doesn't really matter to me."
Parnell has appeared twice in lower-leverage situations, protecting a four-run lead with two outs in the ninth last Wednesday, then firing a perfect inning in another four-run game Saturday. But the Mets have yet to provide him with an official save chance, most often defined as a lead of three runs or fewer.
"I'm definitely ready for a save opportunity, but it's not a big deal as long as we're winning," Parnell said. "We're winning. I'm pitching. Opportunities are going to come."
As for Francisco, the former closer played catch Monday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., as he continues to work his way back from surgery. The Mets have no timetable for his return.
Nieuwenhuis draws start in center against Halladay
NEW YORK -- When Mets manager Terry Collins perused his lineup options prior to Monday's series opener against the Phillies, he quickly realized how few of his hitters boasted solid track records against opposing starter Roy Halladay. Then he scanned down to Kirk Nieuwenhuis' name.
"He's only had three at-bats, but he does have a hit," Collins said, laughing. "We don't have very many, so I thought I might run him in there."
So it happened that Nieuwenhuis played center field and batted leadoff in Philadelphia, one day after coming up with a big ninth-inning single in New York's comeback win over the Marlins. Because Collins has been mixing and matching his outfielders on a daily basis, it is only natural that he should also reward players for strong games and key hits.
"Any time you can get at-bats helps you for sure," Nieuwenhuis said. "I'm just trying to grind up there."
Right fielder Marlon Byrd was also back in the lineup Monday, one day after grounding a walk-off two-run single past a drawn-in Marlins infield. Byrd is the only Mets player with strong numbers off Halladay in a significant sample, batting .313 with two doubles and a triple in 16 career at-bats.
He and his teammates did their requisite homework on Halladay before the game, as they usually do in the clubhouse video room. Though Halladay has demonstrated a much-publicized lack of velocity this year, the Mets were not taking anything for granted against their longtime nemesis.
"One of the things that's made him special in my mind is not just his stuff, but the way he's pitched," Collins said. "He makes his pitches. And he's got so many weapons that you can't ever sit on anything, because you don't know what you're going to get."
Mets to stick with Laffey in Marcum's absence
NEW YORK -- Right-hander Shaun Marcum has resumed his throwing program in Port St. Lucie, Fla., according to Mets manager Terry Collins, but "he's not anywhere close to getting in a game."
Until Marcum does, left-hander Aaron Laffey will continue making rotation turns for the Mets. Laffey gave up 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings against the Marlins on Sunday, many of them on hard-hit balls. But Collins chalked that up mostly to the fact that Laffey had not pitched in nearly two weeks.
Lacking other options, the Mets plan to stick with Laffey for the foreseeable future.
"That's tough to answer," Collins said when asked how much rope Laffey would receive in the rotation. "He's going to be the guy until we figure out when Shaun's going to be back -- or if he's going to be back -- or where we stand. There's no number in mind of how many starts. It could be three, it could be seven. I don't know."
Laffey logged most of his big league innings last season as a starter with the Blue Jays, posting a 4.81 ERA in 16 opportunities (vs. a 3.07 mark in six appearances as a reliever). Among pitchers with at least 100 innings, his strikeout rate was fourth lowest in baseball.
One obvious alternative would be right-hander Collin McHugh, who struck out seven over 5 1/3 innings of one-hit ball last week in his Triple-A Las Vegas debut. But unless Laffey proves clearly unworthy of a rotation spot, the lefty will continue pitching out of the No. 5 spot.