Twins closer Blake Parker has an ERA of 0.96 and has converted all six of his save opportunities this season.
Parker, who pitched in 16 games for the Yankees, could be considered an unlikely closer considering he was drafted as a position player by the Chicago Cubs out of the University of Arkansas. He played with the Cubs from 2012-2014. In the last four seasons, he has played for the Mariners, Yankees, Angels and Twins.
He spoke to NY Sports Day before Sunday’s game against the Yankees.
NYSD: Back at Yankee Stadium, do you have favorite memories of being a Yankee?
BP: Just the whole experience. Obviously everyone dreams about playing at Yankee Stadium but whenever you get to play for the Yankees it’s a different experience. I had multiple experiences out on the field that I really enjoyed. I remember I came in and Gardy pretty much robbed a home run against the Blue Jays, against Smoak I think it was, to win the game. I think the bases were loaded and I came in for Betances or something. But that was a good experience. Facing Papi at Fenway when he came in to pinch-hit when I had just come in to pitch was pretty cool, how loud it was. You know the Red Sox rivalry was always fun games. So yeah, there’s a ton of memories when I look back. I enjoyed every minute of it.
NYSD: Four teams in four years. What is that like for you?
BP: It’s been fun. It’s been a cool journey. I’m able to bounce around, meet a bunch of cool guys and play for a bunch of different teams. The Yankees and the Cubs, a couple of the more iconic teams. Obviously Wrigley’s a great place to play and Chicago’s a cool place to play. I’ve enjoyed every second of it. I look forward to every opportunity that I get.
NYSD: So hopefully you’re renting and not buying.
BP: (Laughing) Oh yeah. I’m renting. I’ll be in Arkansas though. I bought some land in Arkansas this past offseason. I’m going to build, whenever I eventually get done but until then I’m bouncing around.
NYSD: Do you get used it to after awhile when you’ve been around for a few years like you have?
BP: Yeah. I guess so. I’ve seen it all. I’ve not only been through it all but I’ve seen teammates that have done it all. You kind of figure out a way to make it be your normal, your new normal. Yeah, it’s been fun bouncing around. I guess you start to get used to it after awhile.
NYSD: It’s funny in the minors you never started a game. But a lot of guys, they’ll start and then they’re converted into relievers. How were you able to figure out so early that you were better in the bullpen?
BP: Well I was originally drafted as a catcher. So the conversion, not really having built up my innings in the minors or anything, was naturally a reliever. And in high school I was really more primarily a reliever. I would catch and then I would come in to close the games. But I didn’t pitch that much. I didn’t pitch at all in college. So I guess relieving was all I really knew how to do and it was kind of a last resort for me after being a catcher and not really panning out. I just found a knack in the bullpen and just tried to make the most of every opportunity.
NYSD: Was it the organization telling you to be a reliever?
BP: Yeah. It was the organization. They called me in after a game that I’d actually hit a go-ahead home run in eighth and I thought I was getting called up because I was in extended spring training. And I thought I was getting called up and I got switched over. Which was OK. I was OK with that. I was just happy to be there. I was like a 16th round pick, signed for $30,000 or $50,000. I can’t remember.
NYSD: Why do you think you’ve been able to get off to such a good start this year?
BP: Some fortunate circumstances. I haven’t pitched that great if you really look at my numbers. I’ve walked some guys, my command hasn’t really been there with the fastball early on. I got bailed out by my teammates in good situations. So it’s been a work in progress and we’re still trying to get where I want to be because we’re not close but I’ve been fortunate so far. Because it’s baseball, you know. Sometimes things just go your way.