Parker gets personal PFP session to work out kinks

The sun was blazing, straight overhead, no shade in sight, as Mitchell Parker fired pitches from the mound and then reacted to field bunts and other assorted ground balls hit to his left and right.

No other Nationals pitchers were out there this afternoon. This was a personal PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice) session for Parker alone, a response to three misplays he made during his last two starts.

When he was done, Parker walked out to right field for his standard between-starts throwing session in the bullpen. And by the time he returned to the clubhouse, his shirt was completely soaked through.

“There was no negative to it,” the rookie left-hander said afterward. “During the (last misplay Sunday), I kind of figured this was going to be happening. Luckily, we’re going to get to it before it becomes a bigger issue. I appreciate the work to get out there and work on it. It’s a good thing.”

Parker has been perhaps the biggest positive surprise to the Nats’ season to date. In 12 starts to date, he’s 5-3 with a 3.06 ERA and 1.079 WHIP, having yet to be charged with more than three runs in any outing.

But his last two starts have included three poor defensive plays, two of them especially costly to him and the team. Eight days ago in Detroit, he was about to complete his fifth scoreless inning, only to boot an easy grounder back to the mound that extended the inning. He proceeded to walk the next batter, then serve up a three-run triple that turned into a Little League grand slam.

Then on Sunday, Parker was charged with another error when he couldn’t cleanly field the Marlins’ Jesús Sánchez’s roller to the right of the mound. Three innings later, he couldn’t make an admittedly tougher play on a ball further to his right, this one scored an RBI single. He and the Nats coaching staff knew a PFP session would be forthcoming.

“The reason we did it is, after he did it the other day, he came in and slammed his glove,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He was really frustrated by it. So we thought: Let’s just bring him out to eliminate all that frustration. This way, he just focuses on getting hitters out. That’s what he does really well.”

It’s a little bit of a tricky thing, with coaches not wanting to turn a relatively minor thing into a much bigger thing. But the Nationals also felt now was the time to address the issue, before it got any worse.

“You don’t necessarily take it for granted, but sometimes the game gets fast on you,” Martinez said. “All I’ve got to do is get down, field the ball and make a nice throw to first and be done with it. The point today was just to get him to relax and understand he can make this play, hopefully 99 out of 100 times. Just keep it simple. And he did it well.”

Parker fully embraced the lesson, likening it to the emphasis the coaching staff put on strike-throwing to him this spring, which has helped him dramatically reduce his walk rate.

“I’m learning something new every day,” he said. “It’s an evolving game. You’re always going to be learning something. If you’re not learning something, you’re probably doing something wrong.”

Winker's much-needed blast rescues Nationals (upda...
Game 72 lineups: Nats vs. Diamondbacks

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to