Oakland Athletics: Jarrod Parker Defying the Odds for 2016 Return


The chances of returning to a Major League mound after one Tommy John surgery: 78.7 percent. A second, about half of that. A third… well let’s just say Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher Jarrod Parker is among a hand full of major league hurlers attempting to revive his career after going under the knife once again.

Parker was acquired by the Athletics on December 9, 2011 in a deal which sent starting pitcher Trevor Cahill and left-handed reliever Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks. You also might recall right-hander Ryan Cook and utility outfielder Collin Cowgill were a part of that package to Oakland.

The Fort Wayne, Indiana native was a highly-sought pitching prospect who was selected by Arizona in the first-round of the 2007 Amateur Draft — ninth overall. At 23-years of age, Parker put up impressive numbers for Double-A Mobile, posting a 11-8 record with a 3.79 ERA in 26 starts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was phenomenal as well, retiring 112 batters and surrendering just 55 free passes over 130 2/3 innings.

After speeding through the Minor League system, Parker made his major league debut with the Diamondbacks on September 27, 2011. He demonstrated to the front office, scouts, and fans why he was deemed the No. 33 prospect by Baseball America. The 23-year-old pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits in a no-decision against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

With Parker’s career on the rise, it did not take long for A’s general manager Billy Beane to pull the trigger for the 6-foot 195-pound right-hander; despite already having one Tommy John surgery under his belt. Needless to say, Parker was a key contributor for the Athletics in 2012 — posting a 13-8 record with a 3.47 ERA in 29 starts — en route to a magical season with 15 walk-off victories, which saw the green and gold snatch first-place from the Texas Rangers on the last day of the 2012 campaign.

The 2013 season was quite similar, as the now 24-year-old increased his pitching limit to 197 innings and went 12-8 with a 3.97 ERA in 32 starts to another American League West title. As the Athletics season came to a close, there was speculation that Parker was feeling some forearm tightness, ultimately leaving his future up in the air.

Fast-forward to the 2014 campaign, and it appeared as though Parker was going to be a staple in the A’s rotation for years to come. That was until A’s assistant general manager David Forst announced their projected Opening Day starter was scheduled to undergo his second Tommy John surgery of his career, thus sidelining him indefinitely. Surprisingly, there was some speculation that had the Athletics advanced to the 2013 ALCS, Parker would have been shutdown regardless.

Since then, Parker has made significant strides to returning to the mound demonstrated so by tossing to live hitters, pitching simulated games off the mound, and making several rehab starts for Oakland’s Single-A and Triple-A affiliates — Stockton Ports and Nashville Sounds. As difficult as it is to come back from two Tommy John surgeries, it’s not impossible. Former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, along with Kris Medlen of the Kansas City Royals and Brandon Beachy of the Los Angeles Dodgers have all made promising returns. Who can forget starting pitcher Chris Capuano, who has been a veteran presence to a historic Boston Red Sox franchise in this 2015 campaign.

With less than a week until his Major League return this season, Parker made another rehab appearance with the Sounds on May 8, and looked decent over 5 2/3 innings. Everything appeared promising for the Fort Wayne native; that was until pitch 87 of the contest against Round Rock.

Immediately, fans saw Parker release a pitch to the third base on-deck circle and the first reaction is he simply lost his grip. That is until he falls to the ground in excruciating pain, clutching his right arm as a wave of silence overcame the crowd at First Tennessee Park.

As Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle illustrates, Parker was diagnosed with a fractured bone in his right elbow, right where the graft for his surgically reconstructed ligament was anchored. For the time being, it was uncertain as to whether or not Parker would undergo his third Tommy John procedure of his career — if any surgery at all. Nonetheless, the outcome wasn’t what the Oakland faithful had hoped for:

"The fracture is to the medial epicondyle area of the humerus bone; in Tommy John surgery, holes are drilled there to hold the ligament replacement, and repeat surgeries can weaken the bone, according to medical experts. Parker had his second Tommy John surgery March 24, 2014."

On May 19, Parker had successful surgery to clean up and repair the medial epicondyle fracture in his right elbow. At this point, the only thing the 2007 first-round draft pick can do is physically build up his arm strength and continue to rehab, with the intention of returning to the Athletics one day.

In a recent report from Joe Stiglich of CSN California, he mentioned that Parker was making strides to return to the green and gold in 2016. However, it wasn’t confirmed as to whether or not his return would be as a starter or reliever out of the bullpen. Regardless, Parker joins a handful of pitchers, including former Athletics’ set-up man Jason Isringhausen, attempting to revive his career after a third-consecutive elbow surgery.

Next: Eric Sogard Deserves More Playing Time In 2016