The road back from Tommy John surgery was a long one for Jarrod Parker
, ranked as Arizona's No. 1 prospect by MLB.com
. But the Mobile right-hander thinks he's benefited from the journey.
"I'm a better pitcher now," said Parker, who missed the final month of the 2009 season and all of 2010.
The No. 9 overall pick in the 2007 Draft was roughed up in his first two starts for the BayBears in his comeback this season, allowing 14 runs over seven innings. But he has lived up to his billing with his work since then.
Parker, 22, is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his past five starts, bringing him to 8-6 with a 3.91 ERA for the season in 19 starts. Opponents are hitting just .196 against him in July compared to .323 in April.
"He looks like he's ready to take the next step," Mobile manager Turner Ward said.
On a limit of five innings per start most of the season, Parker worked six frames Sunday in a no-decision against Birmingham, allowing one run or fewer for the fifth straight start.
Parker allowed four hits and one run, striking out four without walking a batter. He fanned a season-high eight over five innings in his previous start against Chattanooga, after allowing the Lookouts just two hits over five innings in a victory five days earlier.
Parker reached 99 mph with his four-seam fastball on the AT&T Field scoreboard that first outing at Chattanooga, but he no longer tries to blow away hitters.
"I've learned a lot," Parker said. "I'm older and more experienced. Not that it was important to take time off, but it allowed me to see the game from a different view. I've experienced the highs and the lows, and I'm in better control of myself now. It's all made me better."
Parker worked on refining his mechanics while rehabbing from his elbow surgery and has his full complement of pitches, although his slider took a while to come back. Early in the season, he went with the curveball as his main breaking pitch.
"I haven't thrown it as much lately," Parker said of his curve. "But I have it if I need it. I'm using my slider more."
Regaining command is key for someone coming off Tommy John surgery, as is efficiency, and Parker is more conscious of limiting long counts.
"I've been working the two-seamer, trying to get early contact," Parker said. "I want to keep the ball down and get ground balls."
Parker, who has 81 strikeouts to 44 walks in 92 innings, threw 87 pitches against Birmingham in his second six-inning outing of the season. He needed just 71 pitches in five innings at Chattanooga on July 13.
The Indiana native received a $2.1 million bonus to sign with Arizona and reached Double-A early in the 2009 season after posting a 0.95 ERA in four starts with Visalia of the California League. But shortly after pitching in the All-Star Futures Game, Parker hurt his elbow in a late-July start for Mobile. Ligament reconstruction surgery followed in October.
Two years after getting hurt, Parker is now fully recovered and pitching, he thinks, better than ever.
"I'm just going out there and doing my thing," Parker said.
Record breaker: Paul Goldschmidt set the Mobile BayBears' franchise record Saturday with his 29th homer, most in the Minors. The first baseman belted a two-run shot against Birmingham left-hander Charlie Leesman in the first inning of a 6-4 victory, giving Arizona's No. 10 prospect 90 RBIs. Greg Sain hit 28 homers for Mobile in 2004. The Southern League record is 42 by Tim Laudner of Orlando in 1981.
Changing roles: Atlanta moved right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, ranked as the organization's No. 2 prospect by MLB.com, to the bullpen at Mississippi to limit his innings. He made eight starts for the M-Braves after starting nine games with Lynchburg prior to his promotion. Vizcaino, who missed the end of last season because of an elbow problem, was 4-5 with a 3.20 ERA overall after three relief appearances and had 55 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings.
Moving on up: Right-hander Sandy Rosario, who led the Southern League with 20 saves, was promoted from Jacksonville to Triple-A New Orleans by the Marlins. He was 2-2 with a 3.98 ERA in 39 relief appearances for the Suns. When Montgomery left-hander Matt Moore (8-3) was moved up to Triple-A Durham by the Rays earlier in the week, the Southern League lost its leader in ERA (2.20), strikeouts (131) and WHIP (0.94). Moore is Tampa Bay's No. 2 prospect and is ranked No. 17 overall by MLB.com.