NEW YORK -- Jerry Manuel envisions Bobby Parnell as a closer. Just not yet.
Despite Parnell's explosive fastball and improving command, the Mets manager said Tuesday that he will stick with Hisanori Takahashi as his closer for now -- unless a ninth-inning matchup dictates otherwise.
"We've got to try to do what we can to win games still," said Manuel, explaining his desire to use Takahashi over Parnell in the absence of regular closer Francisco Rodriguez. "But there will probably come an opportunity for him to save games if we think going into that later inning that he's a better matchup than, say, Takahashi."
Striking out more than four times as many batters as he has walked and touching 102 mph on the radar gun on at least one occasion, Parnell has recently gained plenty of proponents for the closer's role -- and with the team 11 games out of first place, there aren't many counterarguments for giving him an audition.
But Manuel has been pleased with what he's seen from Takahashi, who has thrived in every role he has faced this season. And so the Mets will stick with their 35-year-old rookie for now, despite the presence of a potential future closer alongside him in the bullpen.
"I believe that there will come a time in his career where he will be the guy that you give the ball to in the ninth inning to close out a game," said Manuel of Parnell. "Yup, I see that."
Mets not yet looking to limit Niese's innings
NEW YORK -- After a discussion with his staff Tuesday, Mets manager Jerry Manuel decided to keep his rotation intact. The Mets made just one minor tweak, flopping Mike Pelfrey and Jon Niese to give Pelfrey, who threw 119 pitches last time out against the Pirates, two extra days of rest.
Pelfrey will now pitch Friday against the Astros; Niese will start in his place Thursday against the Marlins. Pat Misch, who was to miss a turn in the rotation, will give both of them an extra day by taking his regular turn Wednesday against the Marlins.
"Our starters have given us some length lately," Manuel said. "When they start giving you length late in the season, if you have a chance to give them a day, you've got to give them a day."
Equally pressing is the status of Niese, who threw 120 innings between two levels last season but has already eclipsed that mark and is on pace to throw roughly 180 innings this season. Though the Mets have addressed the possibility of limiting Niese's innings down the stretch, Manuel dismissed that notion on Tuesday.
"We touch on that kind of stuff all the time, but we haven't really sat down and put anything in ink," Manuel said. "I think a lot depends on if we see a diminished product, if we see fatigue. Then I think we'll probably visit it with some sincerity."
Most young pitchers who eclipse their innings totals by wide margins, however, do not show diminished returns until the following season. Pelfrey, for example, was sensational down the stretch as a 24-year-old in 2008, while eclipsing his previous career high by nearly 50 innings. The next year, his ERA ballooned from 3.72 to 5.03.
Considering the recent examples of players such as Pelfrey and Justin Verlander of the Tigers, many teams have taken a hard line on innings totals with their young pitchers. The Yankees, for example, have gone out of their way to limit the innings of Phil Hughes -- currently one of the best starters in the American League -- in the height of a pennant race.
The Mets don't have nearly as much to play for at this point in the season. But they also face a different sort of decision with Niese, whose height, weight and history all play a role. Niese threw a career-high 180 innings two years ago, and might have eclipsed that total last year had he not missed much of the season with a right hamstring tear.
Manuel to keep Carter in pinch-hitter role
NEW YORK -- Though Chris Carter has thrived in a pinch-hitting role this season, and Mets manager Jerry Manuel has spoken openly of wanting to give Carter more starts against right-handed pitchers, those opportunities won't often happen at the expense of Jeff Francoeur.
Francoeur's defense is simply too attractive of an asset for Manuel to ignore. That's why Francoeur -- and not Carter -- was in right field Tuesday, playing behind fly-ball pitcher R.A. Dickey.
"We try to set up the team to have some speed and defense in the outfield, because of the spaciousness of [Citi Field]," Manuel said. "And we've got to find a way to get Frenchy going. I think he's just an important part of the team -- the makeup and the fabric of the team."
Though Manuel has been ecstatic with what he has received from Carter, who is batting .275 as a pinch-hitter this season and .304 as an outfield starter, he envisions Carter more as a weapon off the bench.
"He's done a lot of good things for us," Manuel said. "But we really feel his best role is to find an at-bat in the game when the game is kind of in the balance."
Farmhand Hodge suspended 50 games
NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that it has suspended Mets Minor League pitcher Lachlan Hodge 50 games for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The suspension is effective immediately.
Hodge, 21, was 0-3 with an 11.05 ERA in six appearances for the rookie-level Kingsport Mets.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.