LAKELAND, Fla. -- It was only the sixth inning. Bobby Parnell convinced himself it was the ninth.
That's how the Mets' closer, at least while Frank Francisco is sidelined by elbow problems, is conditioning himself this spring for his new role once the regular season starts.
"Even now, I imagine that it's a tie ballgame or a one-run ballgame and try to put myself in that situation as much as possible mentally, even if it's not actually that way," he explained. "I just want to attack hitters, not give away at-bats. Not give up extra baserunners, so just go after them as much as I can."
In what ended up as a 3-2 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on Friday, Parnell pitched a 1-2-3 inning.
"I love his demeanor on the mound," said manager Terry Collins. "He goes after hitters like he knows he's going to get them out. Doesn't get caught up if he gives up a hit. And we know he's still got the good arm if he needs to reach back for something extra. I like what he's doing early in the count, getting ahead and making the hitters chase the pitches he wants them to hit."
Back at Tradition Field against the Astros on Saturday, Parnell will work back-to-back days for the first time this spring.
"I guess it's kind of a mild test to see where you're at, and I feel good," he said. "I've been bouncing back pretty regularly on throwing the next day, so I'm not really worried. I'm just going to go out and treat it as another day."
Gee shrugs off walks, feels good in latest start
LAKELAND, Fla. -- You can believe the pitching line, which shows that right-hander Dillon Gee walked three batters in his four-inning start against the Tigers on Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Or you can believe Gee.
"Obviously, I never want to walk that many guys. [But] I felt like I'm really close. I felt pretty good," he said.
"It's just the way I feel. I can kind of tell. I'm real close to clicking. Obviously, the fastball was up again today. I don't know if it's a sixth sense, but I can feel that I'm pretty close. I know I've been doing this long enough to know that I'm on the right track. I can feel that I'm really close to figuring it out right now."
Gee's progress will be watched closely because he didn't pitch after July 7 after a blood clot was discovered in his shoulder. He said that, as far as he's concerned, that's completely behind him and that he's on a normal spring schedule and that, even though he didn't locate his fastball, he was pleased with the way he was able to effectively throw his secondary pitches while behind in the count.
"Now I just start building up more innings. Next time out, probably five or six. It's probably based on a pitch count, but I don't know what that is right now. And continue to refine everything I'm working on," he said.
Plunking forces d'Arnaud to take break
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Prized catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud had to leave Friday's 3-2 loss to the Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium after being hit just below the right elbow with a pitch from Detroit's Luke Putkonen in the fifth inning, but he was not seriously injured. Still, John Buck will be behind the plate Saturday against the Astros at Tradition Field.
"It got enough meat to where I'll be fine," said d'Arnaud, ranked by MLB.com as the Mets' No. 1 overall prospect. "Just let it heal, relax for today. Fortunately it wasn't a couple inches higher or lower. It didn't feel great. I was going to catch one more inning, I think, but it was starting to tighten up."
Putkonen also nailed outfielder Mike Baxter and second baseman Brian Bixler in his 2 1/3 innings, but there was no suggestion that anything was amiss.
"Maybe a couple got away from him or something. I don't think it was intentional, if that's what you're asking," said d'Arnaud, who is not expected to undergo any tests.
Jordany Valdespin continued to make his case for a roster spot with a seventh-inning home run, but Collins said he's "still searching" for answers in the outfield. He did say this about Valdespin, who is batting .333 with two homers: "He likes to play, loves to be on the stage. He plays with some flair. And there's nothing wrong with that. He certainly plays with some energy, too. We need that."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.