PHOENIX A year ago, A's right-hander Jarrod Parker was doing what you might expect of a 24-year-old in his first spring training with a new organization and one major-league start to his name.
"Trying to do way too much," Parker recalled Friday. "Trying to impress and obviously make a splash."
The impression he left then was that he still needed some fine-tuning for control issues. The splash came later. After starting the season with the Triple-A River Cats, Parker joined the A's in late April, won 13 games tying rotation mate Tommy Milone for the most ever by an Oakland rookie and took the mound for the A's in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Parker made his first start of this spring and since the decisive Game 5 of that series against the Detroit Tigers on Friday and threw two shutout innings in a 13-9 loss to the Giants. The difference a year makes was couched in his much simpler goals for the afternoon: "Throw quality strikes and use the least amount of pitches that I can."
Check and check. Parker struck out two and faced the minimum six batters.
He allowed one hit, a Brandon Belt single to lead off the second, which was erased on a double play started by third baseman Josh Donaldson, who made a neat backhanded pickup on a sharp ground ball.
"Threw the ball really well," manager Bob Melvin said of Parker. "Strikes with everything."
Parker said it's too early to evaluate his delivery but that his mechanics felt sound. He had been eager to pitch again as the A's have held their top starters and relievers out of early Cactus League games because of the World Baseball Classic prolonging spring training and offered a wry summation of his efficient outing.
"Wait two weeks to throw 22 (pitches)," Parker said.
In Parker's case, though, more preparation time might not hurt. Including his Triple-A stint, Parker threw 214 2/3 innings last season, an increase of 78 from his previous career high in 2011. And Oakland's surprise run to the playoffs prolonged his season into early October.
Parker finished the season 13-8 with a 3.47 ERA and was fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. In his two playoff starts, he had the hard luck of opposing Detroit ace Justin Verlander, who clinched Game 5 with a complete-game shutout.
It was part of a season that required Parker and much of the A's roster, which used an all-rookie rotation down the stretch to grow up fast. The tradeoff is that Parker entered spring training as an established member of the A's rotation and not a new face trying to make an impression.
"I don't think this year I really need to do that," Parker said. "Being able to come in and prepare a little bit slower and a little bit smarter I think, with the amount of workload last year, it's definitely a good thing."
Also getting their first work of the spring Friday were relievers Jerry Blevins, Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle. Cook and Doolittle each pitched a scoreless inning. Blevins' line was less clean two-thirds of an inning, four hits, three runs, two earned but the left-hander said he was pleased with how his arm felt.
"First outing of spring, (the) positive is you feel good," Blevins said.
Milone is scheduled to make his spring debut today against the Colorado Rockies.