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Parker isn't taking anything for granted

Angels' breakout reliever plans to work as hard as ever
MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Blake Parker enjoyed a breakout season with the Angels last year, but he isn't resting on his laurels.

In 2017, Parker came into camp as a non-roster invitee and won a relief job after striking out 17 consecutive batters to end Spring Training. He eventually became a key cog in the Angels' bullpen, logging a 2.54 ERA over 67 1/3 innings, averaging 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and ascending to the closer's role in September.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Blake Parker enjoyed a breakout season with the Angels last year, but he isn't resting on his laurels.

In 2017, Parker came into camp as a non-roster invitee and won a relief job after striking out 17 consecutive batters to end Spring Training. He eventually became a key cog in the Angels' bullpen, logging a 2.54 ERA over 67 1/3 innings, averaging 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings and ascending to the closer's role in September.

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The 32-year-old right-hander is now the Angels' best returning reliever, but he is determined not to grow too comfortable as he prepares for his second season with the club. After all, job security is fickle in baseball, a lesson he learned earlier in his career.

"I always feel like I have something to prove, whether I feel like I'm on the team or not," Parker said Wednesday. "I've been in this situation before with the Cubs. I had a good year in '13, thought I was kind of a shoo-in in '14 and didn't make the team. I've got that chip on my shoulder. I'm coming into camp with a mindset of battling for a position, trying to earn my spot. It's obviously exciting around here with all the new additions, and I guess that's more incentive to work hard to try to be a part of it."

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Parker credits his success last season to the development of his splitter, which he throws with a grip he learned from Tyler Clippard while the two were Yankees teammates in 2016. That pitch, paired with a mid-90s fastball, gave Parker a nasty combination to deploy against hitters.

"It's something I messed around with and ended up really liking it," Parker said. "I started using it, and then last year, the confidence [catcher Martin Maldonado] gave me with that pitch was a big contributor in the success that I had."

Parker occasionally mixed in a curveball last season and would like to incorporate it more in 2018.

"My curveball is kind of what got me to the big leagues, and the split I figured out is what kept me here," Parker said. "I'd like to get back to the curveball of old. It's definitely a pitch that I like to keep in my back pocket. Obviously, the more pitches you have, the better. It's something that I expect to take into the season."

One thing Parker does not expect to take into the season is the RV he purchased and lived in with his wife and stepson last year. Parker viewed the unusual living arrangement as the best way to avoid short-term rent costs in case he wound up shuttling between Triple-A and the Majors, but now he's decided to trade in the mobile unit for a rental home to accommodate his growing family, which now includes 2-month-old son Richard Tyce and two dogs.

"If it was just me, I would," Parker said about keeping the RV. "It's tough with that many bodies."

The Ohtani brief
Shohei Ohtani took batting practice and faced live pitching on Wednesday. A left-handed hitter and right-handed pitcher, Ohtani wears an elbow guard when he bats to protect his throwing arm. His next bullpen session is scheduled for Thursday, after which the Angels will likely reveal when he will appear in his first Spring Training game.

The Angels begin their Cactus League slate on Friday, but manager Mike Scioscia said most of the club's regular position players are unlikely to play until next week due to the compressed Spring Training schedule this year.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Blake Parker