LOS ANGELES -- It was just one inning, one save, one small moment of success. But Bobby Parnell's 1-2-3 ninth inning Thursday signaled to the Mets that he might have the skill set necessary to become a lockdown closer, after all.
"I've failed in the role a few times," Parnell said, referring to his stint as closer late last season. "Kind of looking back, I think I was trying to do too much. So I didn't go out there and try to strike anybody out. I just went out there and tried to get early contact, and it paid off."
Also notable was the fact that Parnell did not strike anyone out in his inning of the Mets' 3-2 win over the Dodgers, despite dialing his fastball as high as 101 mph. Though Parnell is still striking out just shy of a batter per inning, he has made an effort this season to generate contact earlier in counts, instead of attempting to throw every one of his pitches by opposing batters.
"Growing up, you look at great closers, and that's what they do is strike people out," Parnell said. "I don't look at myself as that kind of pitcher."
"As long as he continues to realize it's all about the location of his pitches, if the velocity's there that night, great," manager Terry Collins said. "You're not going to hit that guy. At 101, you're not going to get a good swing on him."
Collins believes it helps Parnell to know that regular closer Frank Francisco will eventually return to his role, as soon as he is done recovering from a strained left oblique -- a process that should take until the end of June, but not likely much longer than that. Because Francisco was pitching quite well prior to his injury, converting nine of his last 10 save opportunities and posting a 1.26 ERA over that span, there is little chance of Parnell stealing his gig for good.
"When Frankie comes back, if he's throwing like he was, that's his job," Collins said. "That's why we brought him here."
But Francisco's $12 million contract runs only through next season, whereas Parnell is under team control for at least three more seasons. All of which is to say that the right-hander's current performance could dictate whether the Mets ultimately see him as a long-term ninth-inning solution.
Torres turning it loose on basepaths for Mets
LOS ANGELES -- The Mets thought they had lost most of their baserunning prowess over the offseason, when stolen base experts Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan hooked on with the Marlins and Giants, respectively. But after a slow start to the season that included a calf injury and a massive slump at the plate, Andres Torres has proved that he, too, can swipe a bag or two.
With another stolen base Thursday, Torres has at least one steal in each of his last five games, going 6-for-7 in his attempts and racking up more steals than anyone in baseball over that span. It's precisely the type of production the Mets hoped they would receive when slotting Torres into the leadoff spot this spring.
"Obviously the biggest part is he's getting hot," manager Terry Collins said. "He's getting some walks. He's getting some singles. He's getting on base. He's creating runs."
As a result, Collins is beginning to play Torres more regularly, slotting him in center field Friday against Dodgers right-hander Aaron Harang. When Torres is right, his manager knows, he brings an offensive dimension to the club that no one else does.
"Earlier in the year I think when his leg was bothering him, he was very cautious to run," said Collins, who gives Torres the freedom to choose when he wants to steal. "He's 100 percent healthy now, so I think when he gets on base he's not hesitant about running."
Ike Davis on Friday returned to the cleanup spot in the lineup, where he had not hit since May. "That's actually where we wanted him in the beginning of the season," manager Terry Collins said. "He's beginning to swing the bat very, very well so I wanted to put him back up there." Davis entered Friday's play with a .327 average and five home runs over his last 17 games.
Outfielder Jason Bay will ramp up his rehabilitation on Saturday, attempting to run for the first time since suffering a concussion June 15 at Citi Field. Bay, who has previously limited his physical activities to a stationary bike, is unlikely to return before the All-Star break.
To prepare their team for knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, Dodgers coaches Tim Wallach and Trey Hillman offered to throw knuckleballs Friday to any hitter who requested it during batting practice. Both coaches have modest experience throwing the pitch.