Blake Parker still searching for last season’s form

The regular-season opener can’t come soon enough for Angels reliever Blake Parker. When the first pitch is thrown on March 29 at Oakland, the right-hander will be able to flush his spring-training ERA, which is an unsightly 18.69, down the drain.

“One hundred percent,” Parker said Thursday, when asked if he’s looking forward to that day. “Everyone starts with a 0.00 ERA.”

Parker closed his first spring with the Angels by striking out 17 consecutive batters, a string of dominance that earned the journeyman right-hander a bullpen spot to open 2017. Parker was so good — 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 71 games — that he finished the season as the team’s closer.

This spring has been bumpy. Parker, 32, was rocked for five runs and five hits, including a three-run homer by Cleveland’s Brandon Barnes, in 2/3 inning on Wednesday, giving him a five-game, 4 1/3-inning spring ERA that would be bloated even if it were divided by three.


So it wasn’t that surprising when Parker showed up for work on Thursday with a crew cut and without the beard he had sported all spring.

“I had to shake things up — that’s where I’m at right now,” said Parker, who is expected to join Cam Bedrosian and Jim Johnson in the back of the bullpen. “It’s tough because I feel good. It’s just a matter of getting a better feel for some of the ‘feel’ pitches.

“The breaking ball wasn’t there [Wednesday]. I couldn’t get it over. That’s something I fully expect to have. The location of my fastball, a few inches either way turns a bad pitch into a good pitch.”

Parker, who mixes a lively 94-mph fastball with a nasty split-fingered pitch, is encouraged by the fact that his body feels good and he is physically sound. He’s confident that with more regular work — Wednesday was the first time he pitched in five days — he will find his form.

“I want to use the next two weeks to fine-tune things, get back to where I want to be,” Parker said. “I came into camp wanting to be ready to go by Day 1. I know it’s spring training, but it’s not ideal to go out there and give up runs. It’s a very humbling game. If you give it an inch, it will take a mile.”

Cut-off man

If the Angels are developing contingency plans for the possibility of aspiring two-way player Shohei Ohtani being ready to pitch but not quite ready to hit in the big leagues, they have no desire to share them publicly.

When Mike Scioscia heard the words, “If Ohtani were to continue to struggle at the plate,” Thursday morning, he cut off the question before a reporter could even finish asking it.

“We’re not gonna talk hypotheticals,” Scioscia said. “I think there are a lot of guys in our lineup who right now are struggling with timing, and we’re gonna work hard to get these guys their last 20-30 at-bats to get ready for the season.”

The left-handed-hitting Ohtani is batting .100 (two for 20) this spring, and there hasn’t been much quality to his at-bats. He looks unsettled and uncomfortable in the box and has struggled to handle inside fastballs and breaking pitches.

The right-hander, who has had mixed results on the mound, is scheduled to make his fourth start of the spring in a Cactus League game against Colorado on Friday.

Ohtani’s two previous starts were in a B game, where he faced minor leaguers, and in a game against the Mexican League’s Tijuana Toros, who roughed him up for six runs and five hits, including a homer, in three innings last Friday.

Ohtani threw 60 pitches in his last game and will have at least two more starts in Arizona to push his pitch count to 90, the threshold most starters need to be ready for the season.

“He still has a little work to do,” Scioscia said, “but we’re really confident he’ll have enough pitches to start the season.”

Angels lose nightcap

A team of reserves lost to the Chicago White Sox 7-2 in Tempe Diablo Stadium Thursday night. First baseman Chris Carter hit his third homer of the spring, a solo shot to left, and outfielder Eric Young Jr. tripled, singled and stole a base.

Starter Parker Bridwell allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, striking out two, walking two and throwing two wild pitches, and relievers Noe Ramirez (two strikeouts) and Jim Johnson (one strikeout) both threw hitless innings.

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna