Photography: Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
After making his 2011 Spring Training debut last week against the Colorado Rockies, D-backs pitcher Jarrod Parker returned to the mound on Thursday against the Padres.
The highly regarded prospect pounded the zone with strikes and threw two scoreless frames.
With a 3-2 lead, Parker entered in the bottom of the fourth, and battled to a full count against Padres leadoff batter Luis Durango. Parker then retired Durango on a ground out to second base.
One batter later, Eric Patterson reached third base on a double and a stolen base. But Parker set down Chris Denorfia and pinch hitter Aaron Cunningham on fly outs to third baseman Geoff Blum, and got out of the inning unscathed.
Similar to his first outing, Parker was able to tighten up and keep the opposing offense from scoring.
“Definitely a lot more comfortable,” Parker said. “I relaxed a little bit. I threw a little less in the ‘pen going two innings. I wanted to get through the two clean and stay with a good energy level the whole time.”
Parker’s energy level certainly seemed rock solid when he returned to the rubber in the bottom of the fifth for his second inning of work. He picked up where he left off the inning before by retiring Chase Headley on a ground ball to Ryan Roberts at second base.
The next batter, Nick Hundley, didn’t fare much better as he flew out to left field.
After allowing a single to Oscar Salazar, Parker got Kevin Frandsen to fly out to center field to end the inning.
While Parker allowed three walks in his first outing, he did not issue a walk against the Padres.
“I was getting over my front side, and getting ahead of guys,” Parker said. “Then going in and out as much as I could and just letting guys get themselves out versus trying to strike everybody out.”
In his two innings, Parker threw 31 pitches, 20 of which were strikes.
“Much better (than his outing Monday),” D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of Parker. “I thought it was much better. Threw the ball better, ball was down more. Moved it all around better, had better location.”
With Spring Training still in its early stages, Parker hopes to build off of each of his outings.
“I feel pretty good,” Parker said. “I’m just preparing for the season and I’m just trying to take each outing into the next one and keep building.”
Upton heating up at plate
Most opposing pitchers are aware that when D-backs outfielder Justin Upton puts the barrel of the bat on the ball, it tends to go a long way. After doubling twice on Wednesday, the D-backs right fielder provided plenty of offense against San Diego on Thursday.
Against the Padres, Upton singled in his first at-bat. Then in the top of the fourth inning he unloaded on a Greg Burke pitch, driving it into the left-field lawn seating for a two-run homer.
That blast was Upton’s first home run of the Spring.
“I just got a good pitch and hit it,” Upton said. “That’s what our goal is this Spring Training, get good pitches and put a good swing on it.”
While Upton has had a nice week at the plate, he is still not where he wants to be.
“The more work we do out there in practice and beforehand helps us out,” Upton said. “As many days as we can get, as many reps as we can get in the game, the rust starts to come off. Near the end of Spring Training, you want to be comfortable. You get your work in now.”