PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Last season at this time Jarrod Parker was fighting to make the A's starting rotation. He didn't succeed at first.
In his first spring training with the A's, the young righty went 2-1 in four games with a 3.27 ERA. He struggled with his command, though, walking 13 batters in 11 innings. He had unmistakable talent, but the team wanted him to refine a few things and sent him to Triple-A Sacramento to start the season. Meanwhile, the rest of the team went to Japan to face the Mariners.
Parker responded with six walks in his first four starts with the River Cats, and quickly earned a spot in the A's starting rotation. He never looked back.
"He didn't go on the Japan trip, which was very disappointing for him," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He went down and did his thing, made four starts in the minor leagues and then came up and next thing you know he's starting the first game of the playoffs."
Parker tied Tommy Milone last season with a team-leading 13 wins. Their win total also tied an Oakland rookie wins record. Parker had a 3.47 ERA in 29 regular season starts, and also made two postseason starts. It is clear that Parker isn't a rookie anymore. He is in a completely different place in his professional career -- as an established major league pitcher.
"Last year I was trying to do way too much, trying to impress, and obviously make a splash," Parker said of his time in spring training. "I don't think this year I really need to do that."
A crowd of 7,243 at Phoenix Municipal Stadium was on hand to catch the first glimpse of Parker this spring.
Parker faced the minimum in two efficient innings. In the first frame he struck out two batters while retiring the side in order on 12 pitches. In the second, he threw 10 more pitches. He gave up a leadoff single to Brandon Belt, but got Brett Pill to ground into a double play.
After waiting two weeks to get into a Cactus League game, he didn't want his day to end and lobbied for another inning.
"I tried, I begged for it, but it's too early for that right now," Parker said. "In July I'll beg for an eighth or ninth inning."
The 24-year-old pitcher is on turn to take the ball in the second game of the regular season. He felt strong in his first game action of the spring.
"I felt like I was able to deliver some pretty good strikes down, I felt like I was getting on top of the ball and finishing," Parker said. "It's too early to evaluate delivery, but I felt like my mechanics were pretty good today and if I can keep them in line all year I'll be pretty happy with that."
Like Parker, Jerry Blevins, Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook also got their first work of the spring. The team had been holding some of their more valuable arms back to keep them fresh for the season.
"I think they realize what's going on," Melvin said. "They know the length of the spring. When you're watching your teammates playing in games it weighs on you a little bit, but they knew from the very beginning. They knew in the offseason this is the route we were going to take."
Doolittle and Cook each threw a scoreless inning. Blevins allowed three runs -- two earned -- in the third inning.
"The most important thing is that I felt really good," Blevins said. "I just have to get back out there and get those competitive juices flowing."
Last season A's pitching had a 3.48 ERA, the lowest team ERA for Oakland since 1990. They accomplished that feat with 12 rookies in the pitching staff. With another year of experience collectively, the team hopes it can take a step forward and actually improve on their successful 2012 campaign.