FORT MYERS, FLA. — Blake Parker has pitched for the Cubs, Mariners, Yankees and Angels since arriving in the big leagues in 2012 at the age of 27. The reliever said he has pitched in every possible role out of the bullpen during that time and he also said he has no issue with however the Twins use him this season.
“I think that (experience) has kind of foreshadowed me to be ready for this situation, to be ready to be called whenever (manager Rocco Baldelli) needs me,” Parker said Tuesday before the Twins played host to the Rays in a spring-training game. “I think the experience of being able to be versatile has gotten me ready for this position. You never know what’s going to happen, but you always have to be ready for any inning, or any situation that they put you in.”
Parker, who will turn 34 in June, saved 22 games for the Angels over the past two years, including a career-high 14 in 17 chances late last season after he was moved to the closer’s role. The Twins signed Parker to a one-year contract in January that will pay him $1.8 million and includes another potential $1.4 million in bonuses.
The Twins do not have a designated closer heading into the season and it’s unclear if someone will emerge. It’s also no longer considered as big of a deal as it might have been a few years back. All that matters to Baldelli is that relievers can get key outs in crucial situations. That could be in the fifth inning, that could be in the seventh inning and that could be in the ninth.
Before Parker closed for the Angels, he also had been used as the team’s primary setup man.
“I think it’s equally as important,” Parker said when asked if he had a preference in his role and if there was a difference between entering in the fifth inning as opposed to closing. “When you come in in the fifth, that’s normally some of your damage innings and you’re going to be facing the meat of the order. Probably with runners in scoring position. That could be just as pivotal of a game point as the end of a game.
“Obviously, you want to be able to have that feeling of just sealing the deal at the end of the game. I guess that’s what makes closing fun is you can, boom! … Finish that last out and then it’s like, OK, you can breath again. We get the win and slap hands and go in the locker room and have a good night. … But, at the end of the day, I want to win ballgames. I know that’s cliché to say, but I mean it from the bottom of my heart. I want to win and I think that’s what everyone here wants to do. … So if it’s the fifth, or if it’s the ninth, or if it’s the seventh, I want to be there.”
The conversation about Parker’s role began with a question about how bullpen usage is evolving. Guys that once might have been only considered for the closing role are now being brought in to get key outs that might have went to long relievers.
“For me, I always interpret it as finding that edge, finding that way to win,” Parker said. “However, you manage the game. Whether it be the new thing with the opener, or whether it be how you manage the back end of the bullpen, with how you are pitching to batters, it’s all game plan on how to win the game.
“I think that you’re looking for that edge on how to gain some wins throughout the season. Different teams may interpret how to gain that edge differently, but I think that if you’re doing it to try to gain that edge, and to try to win ballgames, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t be on-board for (it). They’re trying to set you up for success, so obviously you want to go out there and buy into everything that’s going on. I think it’s all about getting the edge and getting the win.”