ATLANTA -- Though the Mets still have not formally shut down closer Frank Francisco for the season, with less than a week left and Francisco completely idle for the past five days, all signs point to him not pitching again.
In Francisco's absence, manager Terry Collins said that Bobby Parnell will serve as the club's dedicated closer for the final six games of the season. Parnell nailed down the last two outs of R.A. Dickey's 20th win on Thursday after Jon Rauch was unable to complete his own save opportunity.
For Parnell, the assignment is a flashback to July, when Francisco spent more than a month on the disabled list and the flamethrower struggled to replace him. Yet despite those issues and despite the fact that Francisco will be back as the closer next spring, Collins said he still envisions Parnell as a future stopper in the big leagues.
"The ninth inning's a different inning, no question about it," Collins said of Parnell, who holds a 0.66 ERA over his last 14 appearances. "Certainly, his stuff is closer kind of stuff. He's pitched great, he really has."
Dickey reflects on 'special moment' of 20th win
ATLANTA -- The afterglow of a 20-win season stuck with R.A. Dickey from New York to Atlanta, where the knuckleballer met his wife and four children upon their arrival from Nashville, Tenn. Barely 24 hours after becoming the Mets' first 20-game winner in nearly a quarter-century, Dickey was still beaming.
"I don't know if I've really come down from it yet," he said Friday afternoon in the Turner Field dugout. "It's nice to be able to sit in the joy of a moment for more than just a couple of hours after the game, which is normally how I am. So I'm thankful to report that I still feel the sensations of yesterday. It was a special moment, that's for sure."
Though Dickey threw a season-high 128 pitches in Thursday's win over the Pirates, he is still aiming to start Tuesday against the Marlins on regular rest. The Mets could shuffle that if need be, with Dickey, Jeurys Familia and Jeremy Hefner scheduled to pitch in Miami in some order.
It will not exactly be a victory lap for the knuckleballer, even with no obvious statistical goals left to reach. Hours after Dickey won his 20th game, Washington's Gio Gonzalez -- the foremost threat to surpass him in National League Cy Young Award voting -- won his 21st with another quality start. Though Dickey still ranks second in the NL in ERA by 0.01 points, first in strikeouts and second in wins, making him the clear Cy Young favorite with a rotation turn to go, he could use another strong outing to cement his standing.
"I don't think anybody has it locked up ... there are some guys that have had tremendous years," Mets manager Terry Collins said, mentioning Gonzalez, Johnny Cueto, Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman by name. "But if you look at the stats, R.A.'s are pretty good."
Cy or no Cy, future expectations for Dickey have now suddenly and inexplicably risen once again, heading into his age-38 season. But even the knuckleballer cautions not to expect a 20-win encore from him in 2013.
"When you set the bar at a certain height, people expect you to leap over it again and again and again," Dickey said. "And the reality is, that usually doesn't happen. I'll be the first to admit that if I try to have the season that I'm having this year, next year, I'm probably going to fail miserably."