Learning to Provide Relief: An Interview with Adam Parks
Numbers don’t always tell the story of what a pitcher can do in the long term. When looking solely at the numbers of current Crawdads relief pitcher Adam Parks in college, one would think a pro career for him would be a stretch.
Named an all-state performer in 2010 and 2011, the native of Easton, Md. was a member of St. Michaels High’s state title team during three of his four prep seasons. Two summers ago, Parks threw a seven-inning perfect game while with Charles Town (WV) of the collegiate Valley League.
However, his college career on paper at Liberty (VA) University was somewhat underwhelming. He posted an 8.33 ERA in 27 innings with 20 strikeouts and 19 walks combined during his redshirt-freshman and sophomore years. That came after a year away from the mound due to “Tommy John” surgery.
He offers a 92-94 mph fastball, but it’s his wipeout slider that caught the attention of Rangers amateur scout Jonathan George, who convinced the club to draft Parks in the 33rd round last June.
So far in the successive 12 months since his selection, Parks has rewarded the Rangers’ interest in him. Last summer at short-season Spokane, he allowed just six earned runs in 25.1 innings (2.13 ERA) with 31 Ks and only five walks over 18 relief outings.
This year, he’s been one of the Crawdads most reliable “bridge” relievers, putting up a 2.93 ERA (10 earned runs in 30.2 inning) as a reliever with 44 Ks and eight walks. In his last relief outing on May 26, (he made his first pro start on Saturday, May 30) Parks struck out seven in 3.2 innings to defeat Delmarva. It was the seventh time in 11 relief outings that Parks has fanned at least five in three or more innings.
I talked with Parks after the relief outing against Delmarva about his season so far, the adjustment to the bullpen, and the development of new pitches to his arsenal.
From what I’ve seen this season number wise, you’ve been a big strikeout guy. Is that what you’ve been known for?
Parks: Last year in Spokane, I always seemed to get a strikeout an inning. Being with the Rangers, they’ve really helped me develop my fastball command and my slider. Now, it’s been adding a changeup and now a curveball, so it’s easier to set up hitters. As you can see, I usually put people away with my slider or a located fastball.
What’s been the key to developing those pitches that you’ve had, as well as the new ones you’re working on?
Parks: In Spokane, I worked with my pitching coach a lot in standing tall and working on different pitching mechanics. Especially here, when I got to Hickory, Oscar’s (pitching coach Oscan Marin) been working with me with my direction, which has really helped me with my pitch location. It’s helped me with my slider and it’s helping me to locate my slider better to lefties and righties. The pitching staff of the Texas Rangers has been the best for me.
What was the biggest pitch that you had to develop this year to be able to step up to another level?
Parks: I had to get more consistent with my changeup and in the offseason I worked on a curveball, so I can have a four-pitch mix, instead of just a two-pitch. Last year in Spokane, I was a closer. Now, I’m more of a long relief, throwing multiple innings. So having four pitches instead of two is more beneficial. Plus having changeups, it’s key to pitching.
What type of change are you throwing?
Parks: I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just a two-seam changeup. I just put my fingers on it and let it rip.
Long term, staying in the bullpen, is that where you think you’re career will go at this point?
Parks: I don’t know, it’s hard to tell. I enjoy the bullpen, so I will not be upset if I stay in the bullpen,
Do you think you have more of a mentality for that role rather than as a starter?
Parks: Yes and no. Last year in Spokane was my first full year in the bullpen and I learned to love it and I learned that mentality. But, I have had a routine and I like to have a routine. I love being in those tight situations and I love being called on. I would say yes and no.
At the end of the year, what does a successful year look like for you?
Parks: Just knowing that I got better every day, because I’m still developing as a pitcher every day. As long as I can tell that I got better. Numbers are great, ERA’s great and all this, but as long as I’m developing the way the Rangers want me to, I’d say that’s a successful year.
You had a big game on Tuesday, where you struck out seven in 3 2/3 innings during a tight ballgame. You had another game – the 17-inning game comes to mind – when you struck out a bunch of guys in a short span. Do you look more to the strikeout in tight situations?
Parks: If I get a hitter 0-2 or 1-2, I’m looking to strike him out. In tight games, the last thing you want to do is to give in, because one swing of the bat can dictate the game. I would say throwing my pitches with conviction, knowing what strengths are and knowing how I get outs.
When you come into a situation with runners in scoring position, you’ll do anything not to let those runs score, especially if it’s the starter’s runs. The last thing I want to do is to give up the previous pitcher’s runs. So, yeah, strikeouts can get you out of jams.
If there’s a runner and second and third and they hit the ball to second base, a run scores. So I would say you want to come and punch somebody out in those tight situations.
You use your slider for a strikeout, but do you have a go-to pitch for when you need a ground ball or trying to get a double play?
Honestly, I haven’t had many double plays in my career – maybe two or three in my entire career, which hasn’t a long career. I pitched all last year at Spokane and I don’t think I had a double play once.
I know if I need a strike I can go to my fastball. When I’m looking to put somebody away, I usually use a slider.