Parker in Striking Position

Blake Parker is off to another strong start in the bullpen for Class AAA Iowa. The right-hander has been dominant in late-inning situations in his career and is proving himself again this season.

Parker was drafted in 2006 as a catcher in the 16th round from the University of Arkansas. He was quickly converted to pitcher and spent his first full season in the minor leagues between Class-A Peoria and High-A Daytona in 2008, appearing in 43 games and posting a 1.98 ERA with 12 saves in 68 2/3 innings.

The 24-year-old Parker followed that up last season by making 55 appearances (45 in Triple-A) and posting a 2.71 ERA and 25 saves in 63 1/3 innings.

This season he has a 1.26 ERA through his first 10 games and has allowed 10 hits through 14 1/3 innings for a .204 average against.

"He's another guy that's close," Iowa pitching coach Mike Mason said of Parker. "Last year, he had an unhittable breaking ball. This year, he doesn't really have quite that same breaking ball, but his changeup is better. He's got three pitches that he's mixing together. What he needs is a little bit more consistency and better command of everything."

Parker said one of his biggest goals this season is to avoid complacency. He was added to the Cubs' 40-man roster last November and says that being content and expecting a carry-over from last season is not the right approach.

In Parker's situation, it's expected that he is to pitch well by now. But he says that's not the way to look at it.

"That's not the way that I went about it last year," Parker said. "I went out last year like I had nothing to lose and that is what it's all about: having the right mental approach and just working on getting better every day instead of being content."

The results have been good for Parker this season, although he'd like to cut back on walks. He has 15 strikeouts versus nine free passes this season.

"I've been working on command of my fastball, which can always be improved, and then my slider," he said. "It started out slow, but it's starting to come around now. I can get a little better feel for it, and for all your pitches, really, after the first month.

"It's kind of an excuse, but they say it takes a little bit to get you honed in and get your feel back when you're on the mound. But throwing strikes, your secondary pitches for strikes, your fastball for strikes, getting ahead -- all that stuff I'm working on."

With a fastball in the low to mid 90s, Parker has pitched almost exclusively in the late innings over the course of his minor league career. He says he enjoys being in pressure situations, but that at the next level, it's about whatever the team needs.

"If it's the eighth or ninth inning, or the sixth inning or the seventh inning, your mental approach should be exactly the same," said Parker. "Where I fit in (in the big leagues), if it ever happens, I'll be fine with anything. Obviously, I like to win and be in there when the game's on the line and compete."

Mason says Parker isn't that far away from competing at the next level.

"He's got a little ways to go, but he's been throwing the ball great," added Mason. "The numbers are good because he's got good stuff. As far as just saying, ‘Bam, 1-2-3, you're out,' he hasn't quite gotten there yet."

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