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09/16/09 12:48 AM ET

Parnell's role to hinge on results

New York (63-82) at Atlanta (76-68), 7 p.m. ET

ATLANTA -- Currently, the Mets have a six-man rotation, which means that one of them is going to have to go. It's a decision that could hinge on how the Mets view Bobby Parnell.

"He's probably the guy that we're looking the most at as far as a guy that can be transitional," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "Bobby Parnell has relieved for us and has done a good job, and we're actually kind of struggling in that area. Every time we seem to get the eighth-inning guy, something happens."

Such words don't inspire confidence that Parnell will finish this season in the starting rotation -- at least not if the Mets see him fitting in as a reliever next season.

When the Mets announced last month that Parnell was to join the rotation, Manuel said that the move would be good for Parnell's development -- regardless of whether or not he remained there or ultimately was moved back to the bullpen. Manuel's reasoning was that in the rotation, Parnell would have more of an opportunity to work on his secondary pitches.

Yet seven starts into the experiment, Parnell's secondary offerings have not visibly improved. He remains a fastball pitcher without solid command or much of a backup plan, issues that may hasten his return to the bullpen.

Ultimately, the Mets are likely to make their decision after watching Parnell start in winter ball. But big league appearances still carry plenty of weight, and so the Mets will be keeping a close eye on Parnell's start Wednesday evening against the Braves.

Development, at this point, remains critical.

"The priority is always to try to win games here," Manuel said. "That's one of the things that we have to be somewhat cognizant of. But in going forward, because of the situation we're in, other things have to fit. You can begin to discuss, 'How does this guy fit -- as a starter or as a reliever?'"

In the second of three games at Turner Field, Parnell will oppose Derek Lowe, who despite leading the Braves with 14 wins has endured something of a disappointing season. Lowe's 4.47 ERA is his highest since his final year in Boston in 2004, more than half a run higher than his previous National League worst. And opposing batters are hitting .297 against Lowe, the second-highest mark of his career.

The Mets may prove to be an antidote for the former number but not for the latter -- despite their struggles, they entered Monday's play ranking second in the NL with a .270 batting average.

Pitching matchup
NYM: RHP Bobby Parnell (3-8, 5.49 ERA)
Parnell endured a difficult first inning -- three walks, two hits and three runs -- against the Marlins on Thursday night, but a botched double play undermined him before a run scored. He recovered, to a degree, but pitched merely five innings in his seventh big league start. The Fish accumulated seven hits -- one a home run -- and five walks. One of their six runs was unearned. Parnell now has allowed 32 runs, 45 hits and 17 walks in 39 innings as a starter. His record in that role is 1-5. His opponent in this game is the team that scored nine runs against him in three innings on Aug. 19.

ATL: RHP Derek Lowe (14-9, 4.47 ERA)
Lowe didn't exactly shut down the Astros in his last start, giving up nine hits in 5 2/3 innings, but backed by 14 hits, he picked up his 14th win. Lowe has three starts against the Mets this season, going 1-1 with a 7.16 ERA. He has given up 13 runs and 21 hits in 16 1/3 innings vs. the Mets this season.

Closer Francisco Rodriguez left the team to be with his fiancée, Daian Pena, who gave birth Monday to twin babies Francisco Jr. and Angeline. Rodriguez will rejoin the Mets on Wednesday. ... Gary Sheffield, who has not played since Aug. 28 due to lower back discomfort, "should be very close" to returning, according to Manuel. ... Manuel also said that first baseman Carlos Delgado could return for the final two weeks of the season. ... Fernando Tatis, who sprained his left index finger during Sunday's doubleheader in Philadelphia, was available to pinch-hit Tuesday if needed.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

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Up next
• Thursday: Mets (Nelson Figueroa, 2-5, 4.57) at Braves (Jair Jurrjens, 11-10, 2.81), 7:00 p.m. ET
• Friday: Mets (Mike Pelfrey, 10-10, 5.09) vs. Nationals (Marco Estrada, 0-1, 19.29), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Mets (Tim Redding, 2-6, 5.52) vs. Nationals (John Lannan, 9-11, 4.08), 1:10 p.m. ET

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.