GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jarrod Parker wears a uniform number for the Oakland Athletics — 74 — that suggests a player who is a long shot to make the team out of spring training. Roster filler. Or an offensive lineman in football. But A's brass thinks much more highly of Parker than that, as do his new teammates, who have been teasing him about it.
"I think some of the guys are going to make me switch if I make the team," Parker said Thursday. "It's just a number right now; we'll figure it out when that time comes."
Despite a rough outing against the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, the time is coming for Parker. As the ninth player taken overall in the 2007 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, he has been rated as highly as the 26th best prospect in the majors by Baseball America.
Now 23 years old, Parker is the prize right-hander coming to Oakland in the Trevor Cahill trade — though it stung his ego to discover he was no longer an untouchable commodity with Arizona. After he spent a full season at Double-A for the D-backs, they brought him up for a late-season start and a playoff appearance against the Brewers.
And then they traded him in the offseason.
"I think I could have pitched there," Parker said. "But that's their opinion and whatnot. I think it's the same game, just a different place now."
This is the first spring training since having Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in October 2009 that Parker feels he can turn it loose.
"It was a rough first half last year," Parker said. "I struggled with command. I feel good with the slider; last year it was a little slow. I was a little hesitant with it but now it's back and I feel good with it."
Parker also was popping the mitt of catcher Anthony Recker with his fastball, but as to how hard he was throwing it, he doesn't know.
"Beats me," Parker said with a chuckle and snort.
Parker put up solid numbers for Double-A Mobile — including a 3.79 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings. The 55 walks were too much, though, and he struggled with his command against the Dodgers. He faced 12 batters over two innings, allowing two runs, three hits, three walks and a hit batter.
Parker said he felt good warming up. Perhaps too good. Once the game started, his mechanics were flawed.
"I think I took it too easy," Parker said. "I got out there in the game and the adrenaline was pumping and that kind of got the best of me early on."
He has time to work it out, and to settle on a number. He wore No. 21 earlier in camp, until the A's signed Bartolo Colon. Parker gave Colon the preferred number but is sworn to secrecy as to what he received in exchange. A watch? Some money? A case of fine hair-care products?
"Oh, I can't talk about that," Parker said with a laugh. He was being a good teammate. But the problem was, by the time Colon arrived, all of the other respectable numbers had been taken.
"Whatever," Parker said. "It's just spring training right now. I've worn, like, eight or nine different numbers."
Might he keep No. 74? Perhaps the only 74 of note in major-league history is right-hander Ugueth Urbina. So it's been done. But Parker might have a relevant reason for sticking with it: 1974 was a great year for the A's. It was their third straight World Series win with Reggie Jackson, Rollie Fingers, Sal Bando and all the Mustache Gang.
"The A's probably would love it if I did," Parker said. "I don't know about 74. I think everybody else, teammates, wants me to switch more than I do."
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