Nationals 2020 fifth-round draft selection Mitchell Parker got into to his first professional instructional league intrasquad game this week against the Marlins. The left-hander threw two scoreless innings for the Nats. Instructional league workouts continue until Oct. 28 in West Palm Beach, Fla., at the Nats spring training facility.
“I had my first game against another jersey,” Parker said. “It was fun. It was enjoyable. Obviously, the nerves were a little bit there, but now that it is over and done with. Now every game is just a game.
“It went good. I had a couple of walks in the game, but it is to be expected with it being the first time out there with all the nerves going and everything. But no runs were given up, so that was a plus.”
The left-hander is concentrating on throwing his fastball, curveball and splitter. The 21-year-old’s fastball velocity is around 92-93 mph, and he is also working on locating his changeup, but not using that pitch as much in games right now.
“Normally, I would throw fastball, curveball, splitter and a changeup,” Parker said. “Right now, we are in the process of figuring out which ones I can command the best and which ones I’m most confident with. We have narrowed it down to the fastball, curveball and the splitter. The changeup is still a work in progress.
“My curveball is the pitch I feel I can control the best. That’s definitely the pitch that seems to get everyone’s attention from me.”
The 6-foot-4, 195 lb., hurler said the curveball is a fun pitch to throw when he can fool the hitter in so many ways thanks to his ability to move it around the strike zone.
“You can almost see the hitter kind of give up on it and then it ends up going in the strike zone or you get a swing and a miss on it or even a nice little ground ball for it,” Parker said. “Definitely feel like my curveball is my most controlled pitch.”
In West Palm Beach, Parker said he works a lot on his craft with Nats pitching coordinator Brad Holman, Double-A Harrisburg pitching coach Sam Narron and co-field coordinator Tommy Shields. Parker described what a typical day is like in instructional league.
“We get to the facility, we dress out for the practice, we have our meeting,” Parker said. “The pitchers then go their separate ways, depending on what we have going. If we just have a toss day, a defense day, then we go off and do some throwing and then we will go do our team defenses. If we have a bullpen that day, then we’ll start warming up for our bullpens.
“If there is a game, then we will hang out for a little bit until it’s time to go stretch out for the game and then we start moving around for the game.”
The Albuquerque, N.M., native is excited to finally get a chance to at least be with the team and be in the professional baseball environment for a month after the global pandemic shutdown minor league baseball this season.
“Right after signing, it wasn’t too hard, and then one month went by, two months went by, it kind of got old really quickly,” he said. “It was wake up every day and basically do the exact same thing. No matter how repetitive it got, it had to be done because we really didn’t know when we’d be coming down here. Just kind of stay ready for it.”
Parker said it’s been a big deal to be on the same club again with former college teammate Jackson Rutledge. The pair played together at San Jacinto North Junior College in Houston, Texas.
“It was good having a friendly face getting down here and kind of having someone like him to kind of follow around for my first couple of days, figure out what I need to be doing and what the organization expects out of us,” Parker said. “I love every minute of it. Just being around everyone in the organization is awesome. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Parker and Rutledge will stay in Florida after instructional league wraps up to work out and prepare for spring training.