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PHOENIX – Sunglasses helped hide the disappointment on Jarrod Parker’s face, but the hushed tone of his voice said it all Tuesday as the Oakland A’s right-hander discussed his season-ending elbow injury.
Parker will undergo his second elbow ligament replacement surgery next Tuesday, wiping out his 2014 season and leaving his baseball career very much in doubt.
“There’s always that thought, ‘Why me?,’” Parker said. “’What am I doing wrong? What do I need to change?' But to sit here and look back and regret, it’s not the right attitude.”
It would seem that a positive mental outlook is just as important as the physical recovery in this instance. Pitchers coming back from a second “Tommy John” surgery face only a 20 percent chance of returning to their pre-surgery level of performance. That estimation has been attributed to Dr. James Andrews, who handled Parker’s first surgery and will perform the second one in Pensacola, Fla.
But Parker said he won’t let those numbers deter him in his second trip down the comeback trail. That was also the message A’s manager Bob Melvin delivered to Parker, who was setting up as Oakland’s Opening Night starter.
“You start to read all these numbers. I think for Jarrod it’s different,” Melvin said. “He keeps himself in great shape. He works hard, he knows how to rehab. I think he’s going to come back and have a nice, long career. That’s just my feeling.”
Parker said Andrews expressed a degree of concern over an MRI taken shortly after last season ended. The A’s sent Parker for the MRI because he had elbow discomfort during the postseason. Andrews – who read the MRI results but didn’t examine Parker in person – recommended that rest over a full offseason was a suitable remedy.
“(Andrews) thought things could kind of go away and things would change,” Parker said. “Obviously, getting back up and getting into game speed, they didn’t that much. I don’t know if it was one pitch, one outing. It’s tough to tell.”
Parker bumped into Atlanta Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy, a fellow Indiana native, at the airport following his appointment Monday. Beachy also was examined by Andrews and likely is headed for a second Tommy John procedure. Both know what the other is going through.
But Parker also is drawing support from the hundred-plus texts he’s received from other players, friends and family – “some have made me laugh, some have made me a little teary-eyed.”
He’s determined to beat the odds.
“You don’t want to categorize things and be a statistic,” Parker said. “I want to be the different (case).”
The A’s also must move forward without Parker and without fellow starter A.J. Griffin, who has elbow tendinitis and could miss the first month of the regular season. Melvin said once he knows when Scott Kazmir will pitch again – the lefty was scratched Monday with triceps stiffness the team describes as very minor – he’ll have a better idea of how the five-man rotation will shake out.
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He’s also waiting on naming his Opening Night starter until another cycle of exhibition starts.
The current plan is for Tommy Milone and Jesse Chavez to fill in for Parker and Griffin. But now the A’s must have rotation reinforcements ready in case anyone else goes down.
Melvin said lefties Drew Pomeranz and Joe Savery might get stretched out for potential starting duty. Josh Lindblom is another reliever with starting experience. Savery started Monday in Kazmir’s place and was terrific in two shutout innings, striking out five.
Pomeranz is an intriguing option. He was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 draft and is thought to have great upside.
Melvin said the opinion on whether Pomeranz should start or relieve has “gone back and forth as the spring has gone on. I think because he’s been a starter, it’s maybe easier to do it with a guy like that.”
The A’s also want a long reliever in the bullpen who could potentially start in a pinch, the role that Chavez held last season. Melvin mentioned Evan Scribner as one option.
Whether setup man Ryan Cook (shoulder inflammation) begins the season on the disabled list plays a part in how much relievers can be stretched out too. If Cook is unavailable, that shuffles around some of the bullpen roles.