Whether it was Whitey Ford, Ron Guidry, Tommy John or Andy Pettitte, everyone loves that old reliable lefty that you can depend on. It has been pretty much a constant in Yankee history but since the departure of Andy Pettitte, that role has been left wide open. Who can fill that void? It is difficult to tell but in Staten Island, there is a left handed arm that is about as close to Andy Pettitte as you can get. Yes, Shaun Parker. Why him, is the question on course? When you watch him pitch, he is not exactly an eye opener and he won't put up dazzling power pitching statistics. But maybe there is something different about him that makes him so special.
Shaun Parker went undrafted
out of Rutgers University this year but he may have been given a bad deal
considering his early season shoulder injury. But, that did not stop the lefty
from pursuing his ultimate dream of professional baseball. He attended a tryout
at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees soon after signed him as an undrafted free
agent. He was assigned to short season, Staten Island and while he did not blow
anyone away, there was one man that saw Parker in a whole different perspective.
"The guy that I really like is Shaun Parker," said Staten Island Yankee
manager Tommy John. "He knows how to move the ball around. Maybe it is
because he pitches like I did and that is why I like him. But, the kid can
really pitch. He throws strikes which is very important.". So from one of
the past Yankee reliable lefties to one possibly in the future.
PinstripesPlus.com caught up with Shaun Parker as we find out more about the
possible next lefty in line.
PinstripesPlus: What did it feel like to become part of this organization?
Shaun Parker: From growing up in this area, I grew up in New Jersey, I know a lot about the Yankees and their tradition. I knew coming in that their farm system was a little weak. That could help me about a bit. I knew that maybe it would allow me to move up a little quicker through the organization. Maybe not move up necessarily move up to the Bronx but possibly be seen by another team and meet my eventual goal which is to make it to the big leagues.
PP: You wear the number 46. Is there any significance to Andy Pettitte?
SP: A little bit actually. I grew up watching the Yankees and other lefties. I liked Andy Pettitte and Barry Zito. I watched the lefties like Mulder and Zito. I liked it because of Pettitte and I like the number and I saw the number 46 hanging when we went to go pick out our jerseys so I decided to take it.
PP: Your manager, Tommy John once said that he especially liked your style of pitching because you had a similar style that he had in his playing days. What kind of significance does that have to you?
SP: Well I guess that's a compliment coming from his mouth. Any time you have somebody that used to be in the big leagues, especially someone like him, say good things about you, it is always quite a compliment. I just try to throw strikes and if I throw like him, that is always really good.
PP: Since joining this team, what do you think is something that you may have picked up from Tommy John in regards to pitching?
SP: With him, it is always a few things here and there. There is always help with something. With me, he is not worried about how hard I throw. It is just about thowing my four seamer and two seamer over and keeping it low and get the groundballs. Also, the importance of my confidence is important and not worrying about how hard I throw and just hitting locations.
PP: What kind of pitches do you have in your repertoire?
SP: I have a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, a sinker, either one. Also, I have a changeup and curveball too.
PP: What would your consider your best pitch to be?
SP: I think it would have to be my two seam fastball. Tonight, the one inning I pitched today, I threw 12 pitches and all of them were two seam fastballs. (Note: Parker threw one scoreless inning 8/28)
PP: Have you modeled your pitching style after anyone or is there anyone that you think you are similar too?
SP: Actually, not really. Mostly because I have changed my pitching in the last few years. I don't know who I model myself after now. Before, I really liked Barry Zito but he has that big, breaking curveball. My curveball breaks a little bit but nothing like that. I don't know to be honest.
PP: What do you think is your best quality is as a pitcher? What sets you apart from most other pitchers?
SP: My stubbornness. I'm stubborn and I'm not going to give in to the batter no matter what. I mean, I am going to throw the pitch when I want to throw it. If he hits it out of the park, so be it. That's going to happen sometimes. I'm stubborn and I'm not giving in to the batter.
PP: What are your goals for the 2005 season?
SP: To pitch well. I just want to keep moving up through the organization and pitch well. Maybe, I can open some eyes. For me, I just want to keep my walks down and keep my ERA down.
PP: How would you go after Barry Bonds if you were to face him?
SP: That's a tough one. I don't know. I would just have to challenge him and throw strikes I guess. It doesn't matter, you could throw a good pitch and he might hit it out. What I would try to do is just go after him and be aggressive. I just have to hit my spots and keep the ball down.
Part Tommy John, part Andy Pettitte. What more could a Yankee fan ask for? Being a left handed pitcher of Parker's style may not have the glamour of a Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson but it is something that an organization like the Yankees longs for more than anything else. Parker may not blow you away with a fastball or buckle anyone's knees with a devastating curveball or slider but he has a rare craftiness and guile. In other words, he knows how to pitch. Maybe this is exactly why Tommy John likes him so much. At 23 years old, he may not have the most glamorous statistics but the polish shows up enough that makes it clearer how good he could be. Of course, the Yankee world is rooting on whoever wants to step into this role in their farm system. There are a few candidates but from the number on his jersey to his delivery, Shaun Parker looks like one of the next lefties in line in life after Andy Pettitte. Speculation is speculation of course but Parker could well be the man for the job. There seems to be a soft spot for a lefty that Yankee fans can call their own and for many reasons, that lefty just may be Shaun Parker.
PinstripesPlus.com would like to give out a very special thanks to Shaun Parker for his time and effort in answering these questions.