MESA, Ariz. –- Once again there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Jarrod Parker, and that’s both a good thing and a dangerous tease for the A’s right-hander.
His past two years have been eaten up by injury disappointment, a grueling rehab and comeback attempt, followed by another helping of disappointment.
Still, he continues the grind. And as the A’s prepare for their first official workout of 2016 on Sunday, Parker will be taking the mound hoping to carve out a spot somewhere on Oakland’s pitching staff.
“Physically I feel close,” Parker said after taking his physical at Hohokam Stadium. “I finished a rehab throwing program toward the middle of November. I came in and prepared as if normal, which is what it is finally. So I’m happy about that.”
He’s been fully cleared medically after undergoing surgery last May to repair a fractured medial epicondyle in his right elbow. That was due to a gruesome injury he suffered during, what was supposed to be, one of his final minor league rehab starts following his second Tommy John surgery on the same elbow.
It’s believed that no major league pitcher has made a successful comeback from such a history of elbow troubles -– two elbow ligament replacements and a third surgery for a fracture. But Parker, 27, isn’t preoccupied with breaking medical barriers, and he also isn’t bogged down thinking about what role he might fit for the A’s.
“I think we’ll just go with it,” Parker said. “There’s no set plan or way to foresee how it’s gonna feel or which way I’m gonna react or where they need me. I don’t care. I just wanna pitch. That’s what’s important. With the training staff and strength staff, I think we all put in enough work to be ready to go, and I feel comfortable with it.”
If things work out as the A’s envision, the rotation behind ace Sonny Gray would feature Rich Hill, Kendall Graveman, Jesse Hahn and Chris Bassitt. But Graveman and Hahn are coming off serious injuries that ended their 2015 seasons early, and Bassitt missed time with shoulder trouble toward the end of the season. Nothing is carved in stone right now.
“Everybody’s a full go, including Jarrod,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Now, we’ll monitor Jarrod. He’s not going to go out there and throw 60-pitch bullpens right away. … I’m happy where we are with him, but anytime you have a guy that’s had some injuries, you’re going to take a little bit of a closer look at him.”
Parker went 25-16 with a 3.73 ERA in 61 starts with the A’s from 2012-13, and the A’s current plan is to groom him as a starter again. But the option is there for him to relieve if it’s decided that’s best for his elbow. Parker also noted a third potential alternative – beginning the season pitching in relief and gradually building up his innings into more of a starter’s mode as the months progress.
However he and the A’s proceed, Parker seems game.
He’s kept a remarkably level-headed calm throughout his injury misfortune, but there’s excitement building below the surface that doesn’t show on the exterior.
“Oh yeah, I just never show it,” he said. “It’s there. Physically, just being able to do it again and just be one of the guys is going to be an exciting time.”