Spring Training Q&A with Shaun Parker

Our reports continue from Yankee Minor League Spring Training. In this segment, we had a chance to chat with one of the Yankee's best sleeper prospects in the pitching department, lefthander, Shaun Parker. (Free Preview!)

PinstripesPlus: Shaun, Monday was your first day of spring training. How did that go for you?

Shaun Parker: It went pretty well. We threw 35 pitch bullpens each and I am pretty happy with the way I threw the ball. Of course, nothing is going to be perfect right now because it is just so early and a long way to go until the regular season. But, overall I am happy with my session on Monday. I just hope to build on that, getting stronger and stronger moving towards the season. Not to mention, I'm happy to get down here in the beautiful Florida weather. Being from the northeast, I was ready to get out of the cold weather as soon as I could.

PP: Had you been throwing a lot before arriving in spring training or was Monday more of a feeling out period?

Parker. Well, I think it is always a feeling out period, you know. I mean, I have been throwing quite a bit over the off season but it is always another transition. There is a big difference between throwing off a plastic mound inside and getting out there on a field in the warm weather, throwing off a real dirt mound and everything. So, it was good to get going. I was happy with the way I threw considering it was the first day. But, like I said, I am just going to keep building on each pen session.

PP: Monday was only fastballs and changeups and you rely quite heavily on your changeup. How comfortable were you with that pitch on the first day?

Parker: Yeah, it was only fastballs and changeups. And, I'd say my changeup felt pretty good. That is a pitch that I am starting to develop more and more comfort with actually. Believe it or not, I never really threw it much in college but it is starting to be a really important pitch for me in the pros. I started throwing it a lot more in Staten Island last year and I started to notice a lot of success with it. I can probably thank Cesar Presbott for that. He was the first base coach for Staten Island and also the scout that signed me as well. He told me one day that I should really start throwing my changeup more. And, sure enough, it started to become a big time pitch in my repertoire.

PP: Going back to last year, were you satisfied with your rookie campaign in Staten Island?

Parker: Umm, I think I am satisfied, yeah. But, even though I am satisfied, that doesn't mean I'll settle for it again. I had an under 4 ERA last year but I would have liked it to be under 3.50. My walks were down a lot which I was very happy with though. It was definitely a big time learning experience most of all, so that was the best part. But, overall, I think it was a good first year. I just hope to get better and better every season in my career.

PP: So, where do you expect you will begin the 2005 season out of spring training?

Parker: I am thinking Tampa. Nothing is ever certain but that is what I am expecting to happen at this point in time. I mean, a lot can change but as of now, it should be Tampa. I'm 23 years old so I have to get moving. I guess it is like they always say, its time to put up or shut up. And, that's the time for me right now. But, I am more than willing to accept that, go out there and produce.

PP: Does it matter to you whether you stick to working out of the pen considering how loaded the Tampa staff already is?

Parker: No, it really doesn't matter to me. I just want to pitch. The bullpen wouldn't bother me at all. You know, in Staten Island last year, working as a reliever was a pretty new thing for me. But, I remember when I was younger, you just wanted to play everyday and stuff. But, now as a reliever, I get that chance and I really am starting to like it. I think as a starter, you get too much time between appearances and, especially me, tend to over think everything. So, relieving is kind of a nice way to move up the ladder and I really am starting to like it a lot. But, ultimately I just want to play in the big leagues, just like everyone does.

PP: Do you have any statistical goals that you would like to set for yourself in 2005?

Parker: I don't really consciously think about statistical goals but I have to be honest that I do have some standards I'd like to meet. First, I would like to have an under 4 ERA, preferably under 3.50 also. But, for starters, I'd like to be under 4. Also, I'd like to improve my strikeout to walk ratio.

PP: Going back to last year, how much did it mean to you to read Tommy John's very positive comments on you last year, even comparing you to himself in his playing days?

Parker: Wow, that really meant a lot to me, really. To even be compared to someone like him, is just awesome. But, I think I can definitely see the comparison in our styles. I go out there, throw a lot of two seam fastballs, basically saying here it is, see if you can hit it. I am not going to blow the ball past anyone but when I make my pitches, I'm going to be tough to hit.

PP: How special would it be for you to get a chance to earn a promotion to AA Trenton this year and play near your hometown?

Parker: Awesome. Wow, that would just be amazing. My hometown is like 20 miles away from Waterfont Park so that would be great to pitch in front of my home crowd. I'd definitely be very grateful. I got sent up there for three games at the end of last season but I didn't get a chance to pitch. But, it was nice to be considered for a promotion like that. It would have been nice to actually pitch so I could see how I would measure up with some more advanced players. But, just being there was great and hopefully I can get back there full time this year.

PP: You have the two seam fastball and the changeup. Will you be looking to improve your breaking ball in 2005?

Parker: Yeah, I'm always looking for improvement. My curveball was easier to throw in college because of the higher seams on the baseball. But, once I got to Staten Island, I struggled with the seams and gripping the curve correctly.

PP: What else will you be looking to improve upon in 2005?

Parker: As always, I'd like to improve every part of my game. Last year, I was starting to cut my four seamer a little bit so I'd like to fix that, too. Again, I'd like to improve my breaking ball so I can get a little tougher on lefty hitters.

PP: When will you have a chance to meet with Nardi Contreras to discuss your future in the organization?

Parker: I will meet with him on Thursday. I really look forward to it because I spoke to TJ Beam and he said that Nardi is a really great guy and that he has a lot of knowledge.

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