I talked to Jarrod Parker in detail about his elbow injury, rehab and the progress he's made over the last year. In this portion of the interview, we also discussed pitching mechanics. I'll transcribe our conversation in its entirety later this offseason. And we'll make the full conversation available as a raw audio file later this month.
For those people who are into sports betting or just keeping on top of sports news, our money would be on Parker breaking camp with the Diamondbacks next spring. If not, he'll likely open the year in Double-A and be up with the team before year's end.
Adam Foster: I was reading in one of your blogs that you first -- when you had your elbow injury -- felt a little abnormal I think it was on July 30th (2009) when you started throwing in the bullpen. What felt abnormal?
Jarrod Parker: I felt just it was kind of tight before the game. I threw a little bit and it got loose, and then as the game went on I lost some range of motion and had a little more soreness than I was use to post-game. I didn't throw for like a week after and I went to see Dr. (James) Andrews -- luckily we went to Birmingham the next series -- and saw him. And that was kind of how we came to the conclusion that I had some damage in my elbow.
AF: What was the determination of the extent of the damage?
JP: I think the medical term was mid-to-high grade. I don't know if they really put a percentage on that kind of thing.
AF: So it was a mid-to-high-grade tear of the ulnar collateral ligament?
AF: And I think I read, too, that you said the night before you had the injury you had reached some of your peak velocities as a professional.
JP: Yeah, which was kind of weird. I didn't know until after, but everyone said that velo was up and I talked to one of our trainers a couple weeks after it happened and he was like "Yeah, that's how it happens a lot is guys...their velocity spikes and then the injury kind of flairs up and it happens."
AF: What were you touching that night, do you remember?
JP: I think I touched 99 (MPH) a couple times and everyone was kind of shocked because I hadn't done that all year.
AF: I had you at 98 earlier that year in Modesto.
JP: Yeah, I'd touched 98 before but I think 99 was kind of a rarity. And that was kind of the spike in the velo that no one had seen that year.
AF: So aside from the velocity spike, is there anything that you'd attribute your injury to?
JP: You know, not really. I do all the shoulder/elbow maintenance and all that stuff. I'd just guess it's kind of the wear and tear; throwing and being a pitcher for so long. It happens to high-velocity guys who've got a little more wear and tear.
AF: Did you have any elbow strains or anything similar in high school or previously?
JP: No. I really had never had anything up until that surgery -- wrong with elbow or shoulder -- nothing at all.
AF: After you've had something like that -- you've been able to get back on the mound, you threw in instructs -- do you make a conscious effort to change anything or do you just kind of figure "I got a new UCL, let's see how much mileage it has."?
JP: I don't really change anything 'cause I've never really done any of the huge football lifts or anything that wouldn't make sense for a baseball player or a pitcher. But I'd say that my work ethic is a lot better now that I've gone through the rehab and the surgery stuff...just more of a gym rat and focussed on the shoulder and elbow work a little bit more.
AF: And you're a long tosser, correct?
JP: Yeah, I haven't really done a whole lot of it since surgery. I think the furthest I got was 150 (feet) post-op, which was building before I got on the mound to throw those bullpens. But that's pretty much the extent of it, and then once I got throwing bullpens three times a week, I was kind of backing off that.
AF: I've noticed just in my time around baseball and minor league camps, it seems like fewer guys are long-tossing today than might have been 10 years ago. Does that align with what you've seen?
JP: I think it's just we've got a lot more research these days and the medical side of things look at it a little differently. And throwing a lot more, guys are backing off and saving throws for the games and trying to get the best out of those opportunities.
AF: So it sounds like then you might be making a conscious effort to decrease the amount of long tossing you do just to prevent any additional wear on your arm.
JP: Yeah, definitely. I'm more conscious of amounts of throws and how many throws I throw before getting I'm ready for a game. I've come to count those number of throws and pitches before just because after surgery you're allowed a certain amount. So I've come to count about everything when I'm throwing.
AF: Have you made any alterations to your mechanics upon return?
JP: Not anything big delivery-wise. I just feel like post-surgery I began to finish over my front side a little more and get more out of my shoulder and take stress of my elbow.
AF: Can you tell me a little about...I think for a lot of guys, probably, they started their pitching mechanics based on what their dad taught them or what a coach taught them. How did you end up with the mechanics and windup that you utilize?
JP: I didn't really start pitching 'til I was a freshman in high school and I worked with a summer coach who was an associate scout with the Twins. I didn't play football so every off-season I would work out with him and throw with him. His name is Mark De La Garza -- I believe he's scouting for the Mets or the Blue Jays now. But I worked out a lot with him and did a lot of towel and dry stuff and it wasn't really all about throwing. It was just reps with the towel and working a lot of things...getting out front and extending that front left arm over my front foot.
AF: It seems to me with the muscle memory that it might be at that age -- your freshman year in high school -- that you really establish tendencies that you stick with from there on out.
JP: Yeah, definitely. You hit your growth spurt and you kind of get over that awkward stage where you're a little uncoordinated. But after that it kind of stuck and I just kind of always used those towels to fine tune things. If I feel something's a little off, I'll just go back to my roots.
AF: So you still go back to using the towel sometimes?
JP: Yeah, definitely.
AF: One thing we look at -- and I realize that exploration into pitching mechanics is still very young and it's hard to draw conclusions -- but I like to look at where a guy's arm is once he plants his front foot. And it seems to me, just in replicating motions in my living room that we call driveline...when you're bringing the ball up towards home plate; you're driving towards home plate, if you have the ball up in the driveline more once you plant, you might be putting less stress on your arm because your arm doesn't have as far to travel. Is that anything you've ever thought about?
JP: Yeah, we've done a lot of that stuff where you're trying to get extended out as far as you can. It's less work on your shoulder; you're releasing the ball closer to home plate. I think that's something we try to focus on as well.
Check back soon for the second part to our interview with Jarrod Parker. He also is a must-follow on Twitter @JarrodBParker.