Parker impresses in big league debut

Parker impresses in big league debut

Parker impresses in big league debut
CHICAGO -- Right-hander Blake Parker impressed Cubs manager Dale Sveum this spring, and now he'll get a chance to do so in the big leagues.

"I liked him a lot in Spring Training," Sveum said Thursday. "He's got an above-average slider, and that's one thing we need right now is somebody who can go through right-handers with a slider. He's got velocity. He's a guy who has done a nice job and you have to start rewarding guys who've done a nice job."

Parker, 26, was rewarded when he was called up from Triple-A Iowa to the Cubs on Thursday. He made his Major League debut in the seventh inning and struck out the first batter he faced, the Phillies' Ty Wigginton, then gave up an infield hit to Hector Luna. Parker then got Freddy Galvis to hit into a double play to end the inning.

So far, so good. But in the eighth, the Phillies had runners at second and third with two outs and Parker fielded Hunter Pence's swinging bunt, then overthrew first for an error. Two runs scored.

"If there's one thing I pride myself on, it's [pitchers' fielding practice]," said Parker, upset about the errant throw.

The good news is that he wasn't intimidated about pitching in a big league ballpark. He had about nine family members and friends who flew to the game at Wrigley Field.

"I felt right at home," Parker said.

Left-hander Scott Maine was optioned to Iowa to make room.

"I've been waiting a very long time, but it makes it so much more rewarding and worthwhile when you get that call," Parker said. "It's almost just sinking in."

A 16th-round pick in 2006, Parker was 1-0 with five saves in five opportunities in 13 games at Iowa, giving up three earned runs on nine hits over 13 innings. He held hitters to a .200 average.

The Cubs' bullpen could use some help. The relievers have the worst record in the National League at 5-11, and they rank 26th in the Majors with a 4.76 ERA. Carlos Marmol and Lendy Castillo, who were both in the 'pen at the start of the season, are now on the disabled list, and rookie Rafael Dolis has taken over as closer.

"It's a bullpen right now that's in a 'what's going to happen tonight'-type thing with who are you going to use in this situation," Sveum said. "Unfortunately, we're putting some guys in situations where they've never had to pitch before, which is unfortunate for them, but they've done a good enough job where they can get by."

Parker has a little help in the inspiration department. He wears his grandfather's ID tags. Jack Parker served in the Air Force and saw action in World War II and Korea. He needed the support after a down season in 2010. He's bounced back nicely.

"After a down year, you don't let it get you down," Parker said. "Baseball is a tough game and a game of failure, and recovering from that. I've never given up, and you work hard to get to your goal."

Iowa manager Dave Bialas called the right-hander around midnight Wednesday with the news.

"I wasn't expecting it at all," Parker said. "It was a weird number, a Florida number from the manager, and I recognized his voice immediately, but I didn't think that's what he was calling for."

Sveum said he'll stick with Dolis as the closer, but if the Cubs need Parker in late inning situations, he's ready.

"That's a position I've always liked to be in, coming in with the game on the line and a little more pressure filled situation," Parker said. "I've always kind of thrived on that."