WASHINGTON – There are several Nationals’ pitchers with Major League experience who worked out this winter in Florida with Cressey Sports Performance.
That list includes Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Brad Hand, and Kyle McGowin, among others, in Palm Beach Gardens.
Mitchell Parker, drafted last year by Washington out of San Jacinto junior college in Texas, spent time at Cressey last winter but due to protocol wasn’t able to be around the veterans that much.
But the pitcher for low Single-A Fredericksburg was able to spend time with veteran reliever Aaron Barrett, who has pitched in 95 games in parts of four seasons with Washington since 2014.
“One of the guys I did come across was Aaron Barrett,” Parker told Federal Baseball on Tuesday during a Zoom interview with reporters.
“I was talking to him about hitters and everything and how he pitches to different guys and things like that.”
“I was kind of learning what they have to go through at the big league level,” Parker added.
“And figuring out what goes through his mind on the baseball field on a daily basis. Just knowing those guys were at the facility raises your intensity level.”
Parker, 21, was drafted in the fifth round in 2020 out San Jacinto, which is the same school that produced right-hander Jackson Rutledge, who is part of the rotation this year for high Single-A Wilmington in Delaware.
Rutledge also moved to Florida to train after he was drafted by the Nationals in the first round in 2019.
“We were doing a lot of work there. I actually moved in with Rutledge,” Parker said. “He was a JUCO friend I went to school with. We spent just under a year working out together.”
In his first inning as a pro, Parker struck out four batters on May 7 at Lynchburg.
“Honestly it didn’t register with me until after the game. There was a lot of nerves with my first-ever pro game. It was cool,” Parker said.
A New Mexico native, Parker is 0-1 in his first two starts this year for Fredericksburg with an ERA of 5.87 for a team that lost its first 12 games.
In his first 7.2 innings he’s struck out an impressive 15 batters.
“He has thrown the ball really, really well,” said Pat Rice, the Fredericksburg pitching coach.
“His pitch counts have been high because no one can hit him. There have been a lot of swings and misses. He has walked more than he needs to.”
“He has really, really plus-plus ride on his fastball. Guys have a hard time getting on top of the ball. I would love to see him make quicker outs but I also love watching guys swing and miss. From that side of it, that is going really well. He has done a good job of holding runners. I have been very impressed with how he has thrown the ball,” Rice added.
Rice said his staff has been pressing early on.
“I think a win would be worth 10 wins. Guys are trying really, really hard,” said Rice, a University of Arkansas product who pitched in seven games with Seattle in 1991.
“We try to make perfect pitches. We have done a poor job of controlling counts. That makes it difficult on the defense. Errors are errors, you have to deal with it.”
Parker, had he not signed with the Nationals, was headed to the University of Kentucky after a year of junior college.
He was supposed to go to the University of Tennessee out of high school but said he didn’t want to spend three years in college before he could be drafted.
He is slated to make a third start of the year at home Wednesday in Fredericksburg against the Salem Red Sox.
“It was a big learning curve playing in front of people,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is just a baseball game.”