Parker's 'puzzling' pitching problems

Melvin on Parker: 'It's a bit puzzling'

Parker's 'puzzling' pitching problems
April 14, 2013, 5:45 pm
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Jarrod Parker is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA, four strikeouts and eight walks this year. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

OAKLAND -- Jarrod Parker's performance on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers seemed to leave many people confused. Parker gave up a career-worst eight runs and matched a career-high with nine hits allowed against the Tigers.

[RECAP: Tigers 10, A's 1]

The promising young pitcher that tied an Oakland rookie record with 13 wins last season is now 0-2 in his first three starts and sporting an unsightly 10.80 ERA.

"At this point and time he'll make his next start," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You've got to stick with guys for a bit, and again, he was at times last year one of the better pitchers in the American League. It is puzzling and certainly he's not happy with the results he's getting."

Puzzling typically isn't the way Parker's performance is described. He had a 3.47 ERA in 29 starts for the A's in 2012 and was chosen to start Game One of the American League Division Series. While he may look like the same pitcher on the mound, his numbers aren't showing for it.

"I'm obviously upset and I'm not happy with what's going on," said Parker, after allowing nine hits and only lasting 3 1/3 innings in back-to-back starts.

Parker has issued twice as many walks as strikeouts with eight passes and four punch-outs this season. Typically for a pitcher like Parker, it's the other way around. Last season he struck out 140 batters and walked 63.

"The guy has got talent. He's got great stuff," A's catcher Derek Norris said. "He's just a little unlucky right now. Obviously you're going to look at the box score and be like, 'Oh, unlucky. Yeah right.' But you know, it really is. He's just not catching the breaks right now."

The A's had hoped Parker would find his rhythm early in the game. After struggling with his fastball command in his previous outing, Parker tried to attack the strike zone. The plan didn't work out against a good hitting team like Detroit. Austin Jackson led off with a single and Torii Hunter drove him in with a double to put the A's in an early 1-0 hole.

It got worse from there. The Tigers made it a 4-0 game when Austin Jackson hit a two-run home run in the second inning. In the fourth inning, Parker gave up four consecutive hits, including a two-run single to Miguel Cabrera and a one-run double to Prince Fielder.

"I think today he was trying to pound the zone early on with the fastball," Melvin said. "He was, and they were just hitting it."

Parker believes it is too early to panic. He feels that he is just "a tick away" and thinks there is an adjustment that he can make. On Sunday, he said his off-speed pitches weren't working the way he likes, and as a result his fastball wasn't as effective.

"It's one of those days I guess," Parker said. "I made a couple of good pitches and they hit them. I made a couple of bad pitches and they hit them."

Parker threw a career high 194 innings last season. He had Tommy John surgery in 2009 and missed the 2010 season. The A's have been cautious not to overwork him, and he got extra rest this spring, and an extra two days of rest prior to his previous start. Health and fatigue shouldn't be a problem at this point.

"Once he gets a few good innings under his belt I think he'll relax a little bit and forget about everything that's happening right now," Norris said. "Just as long as he stays in it and keeps his heart and his mind straight, I think he'll come out of it and be just fine."

Norris has his pitcher's back. He also defended Parker in the second inning when Fielder was hit by a high and tight pitch on the elbow. Fielder flinched to avoid the pitch and inadvertently stuck out his arm. Before the lumbering first baseman walked to first base, he had a few words for Norris and then looked at Parker when he finally decided to take his base.

"We obviously weren't coming in and up -- that's a no-no -- especially when you intentionally walk a guy and then hit him," Norris said. "That's going to raise a few questions marks. I didn't feel like the ball was extremely close. He kind of stuck his elbow out a little bit. He was probably just protecting his face."

Note: 

-- Coco Crisp (strained left groin) took batting practice and ran in the outfield on Sunday. Melvin says he is a game-time decision for Monday. 

After winning nine games in a row, the A's have now started the wrong kind of streak with two consecutive losses. They will have a chance to right the ship against the 4-8 Houston Astros, a team they swept last week.