“Preparing is a little different this year because I experienced the whole season and the travel and the grind of everything,” Parker said. “There are 162-plus games, you're traveling from the West Coast, where you're the furthest away from everywhere else. People don't think about that much. It can drain you if you let it.”
Parker, a Fort Wayne native who was a standout pitcher for Norwell High School before entering the big leagues, reports to spring training in Phoenix, Ariz., on Monday. Fortunately for him – and this was part of his offseason plan – reporting means getting in his car and driving in from his home a few miles away.
Parker's home is in Scottsdale, Ariz., a fact that allows him to train year-round and attack this season in new, better ways.
As meticulous as Parker is on the mound, where he grew into the A's ace pitcher last season, helping them to the playoffs, that's how he is in his approach.
He has a meal service drop off his meals every day, keeping his diet where it should be, stocking up on the fuel that will propel him to strength in July and August. He wants to be ready for the “dog days,” when other arms falter but his stays strong.
“I can already tell the difference in eating healthier, having more fruit, feeling better,” Parker said. “That's going to carry over throughout the season. Watching everybody else eat whatever they want requires discipline and holding yourself back. But it comes down to how committed you really are and what you do about it.”
Parker, 24, says age and experience have helped him develop the best possible offseason plan for in-season results.
“You learn who you are and what it takes for you to be ready,” Parker said. “Individuals are different and different programs work for different people. You have to figure out yourself and who you are.”
The A's were the American League's surprise team last season, and Parker played a major role. After being acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, he started the season at Triple A and moved up quickly. He finished with a 13-8 record, 3.47 earned-run average and 140 strikeouts. He ended up pitching 181 innings.
Parker has an uncanny ability to remain focused on the next pitch, a trait that showed as he pitched down the homestretch of the regular season and against Justin Verlander in the playoff series against the Detroit Tigers last season.
“You can ask my dad or mom, I was kind of a wild child, but able to compose myself more as I got older,” he said. “It's good to have an older brother who teaches you lessons and you learn from other people. You just try to learn as much as you can."
Parker said the A's learned they have a lot of potential as a team with their run last season. They'll be young again, but a year wiser in the requirements to be a contender.
“We're still going to be that team that gets overlooked in the AL West because we're not big-budget or big-market,” Parker said. “But we know who we are. Last year, we showed we don't care about what anyone says, we know what we're capable of doing and we'll keep plugging away.”
Parker said he hasn't spent a lot of time looking back on last season, nor dwelling on the success he had.
He soaked in a little bit when he returned to Fort Wayne for the holidays, then it was back to work.
“Being around other people, they'll tell you what a great year you had, but I try to brush it off,” he said. “You can always do better. It was good, but it's about wanting more and never being satisfied with what you've done. I'm kind of a perfectionist. When I'm around people who say 'you had a great year,' I accept that, but I want even more now.”
Parker's Top 2012 PerformancesJune 4: Parker threw a no-hitter through eight innings over the Texas Rangers. Michael Young broke it up with a base hit. Parker left the game after eight, finishing with six strikeouts and three walks in a 12-1 win.
Sept. 21: Parker pitched eight strong innings for the second time against the Yankees, allowing only one run. He struck out seven, including Granderson (three times), Cano (twice) and Jeter (twice), but the Yankees won 2-1 at Yankee Stadium in 10 innings.
July 21: Defends his home turf against the Yankees, winning 2-1. Parker pitched eight innings, giving up hits and one run with five strikeouts.
Aug. 19: In a 7-0 win over Cleveland, Parker threw eight scoreless innings, allowing six hits, with two strikeouts and one walk.
June 27: Parker pitched a season-high nine strikeouts, pitching seven innings and allowing only one run in a 2-1 win over Seattle.
- Kale DeVoe
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