MESA, Ariz. – The biggest challenge for A’s right-hander Jarrod Parker on Monday didn’t concern location or velocity, but the rapid beating of his own heart.
Parker threw off the mound for the first time since the A’s opened spring training, and it was a milestone event for a pitcher that’s missed two full seasons because of elbow problems. He admitted feeling too pumped up, which threw off his timing early in his 26-pitch workout.
“No doubt,” Parker said when asked if he was nervous. “I mean, I was nervous yesterday just being here. Good nerves, for sure, because if you’re not nervous I don’t think you’re doing it for the right reasons. Today I was just excited and it came out and I was really happy with it.”
Parker will throw off the mound every three days for now – the other pitchers are going every other day. He said he doubts if he’ll pitch during the first week of exhibition play because he’ll probably still be building his arm strength.
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Parker also isn’t throwing breaking balls yet, sticking with fastballs on the mound and mixing in change-ups on flat ground. The big-picture question remains whether starting or relieving is in his future. The A’s are stretching him out to start for now, but there’s thought that relieving might ultimately be best for a pitcher who’s undergone two Tommy John elbow surgeries plus a third procedure for a fractured elbow last May. Parker’s stuff might be good enough to make him an effective reliever just with a fastball and changeup.
“I have feelings on (starting or relieving), but I just don’t think there’s enough proof in what I’m doing right now (to make a decision),” he said.
Seeing Parker healthy and popping the catcher’s mitt was a far cry from May, when Parker crumpled to the ground toward the end of a Triple-A rehab start, suffering a fractured medial epicondyle in his elbow. A’s manager Bob Melvin said he had to look away from his phone when he watched video of the injury, and making it all the tougher was Parker had been nearing the completion of a long rehab from his second Tommy John surgery.
“He’s kind of been a little bit on the outside for years, doing things by himself,” Melvin said. “Rehab is a lonely, lonely experience, especially when you’re having to do it multiple times. To be a part of everything from the first day forward, I know, makes him feel a lot better.”
PROSPECT WATCH: Lost amid several prominent names throwing off the mound Monday was the presence of right-hander Raul Alcantara. Now 23, Alcantara was part of the package that came from Boston in the Andrew Bailey trade before the 2012 season (Josh Reddick arrived in the same deal).
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By spring 2014, Alcantara was rated the A’s top pitching prospect before injuring his elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery. He returned to make 15 starts last season at Single-A Stockton, going 0-2 with a 3.88 ERA.
“This is a guy that a couple years ago was ahead of quite a few guys and probably one of the next wave of starters we were looking forward to seeing, but he was set back some,” Melvin said. “We know he’s eager to impress.”
NEW GUYS: John Axford, Liam Hendriks and Ryan Madson – all acquired in the offseason and expected to be major parts of the bullpen -- threw off the mound in the same session.
“All of them have different repertoires, but the common theme is they all throw pretty hard,” Melvin said.