BRADENTON, Fla. -- Some teammates have guessed that there's some method to the madness of Blake Parker's elaborate pre-pitch dance on the mound. His arms jerk around in front of his body. He restlessly twitches his front leg. Heck, there even used to be a Ryan Dempster-like glove waggle involved. Is it five toe taps before the fastball? Six toe taps before the curveball?
The controlled chaos is just a patchwork quilt of various adjustments Parker has felt out along the way, trying to disguise the muscles in his arm as he works with the deep grip on his splitter. It's emblematic of a career that Parker described as one of "constant evolution" -- trying new things, seeking the smallest edges.
His latest adjustment is a new cutter. Parker said that he started toying with the pitch while playing catch with former teammate Cam Bedrosian late last year, and Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson liked how the pitch could fit more formally into Parker's arsenal.
"It's something that can be a weapon versus left-handed hitters," Johnson said. "We're really excited about where it's going."
The 33-year-old has constantly tinkered out of necessity throughout his career. Parker was drafted as a catcher and corner infielder, debuted in the Major Leagues on the mound at age 26, was released by the Cubs in 2015 and finally broke out with the Angels in '17, in his age-32 season.
"I think that's why Blake has success and will continue to have success. He's not so set in his ways," Johnson said. "He knows if something's not working, he's not -- I don't know if 'scared' is the right word -- but he'll make changes. To his credit, I think that's why he's still around and will be around."
Parker said he didn't even start throwing his signature splitter in games until a few weeks before he was called up to the Major Leagues. During one outing, he struck out the notoriously keen-eyed Joey Votto with the pitch, and Votto caught up to the young Parker before batting practice to compliment him.
"That's when I realized I needed to use it a little bit more," Parker said. "It took off from there."
And even so, the adjustments didn't stop. In fact, he said his splitter grip has changed three or four times since he started throwing it.
"It might change again," Parker said. "Always finding that edge, no matter what it is, whether it's trying to pick guys off -- trying to work on your pick move -- or if you're working up in the zone or down in the zone. Always trying little things to get better."
Parker's constant search for the littlest edge in his long journey to the Twins has instilled in him a mindset receptive to new ideas. As Johnson and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Hefner work with the Twins' pitching staff on biomechanics, analytics and new ideas of pitch usage, the veteran Parker is helping develop a similarly open approach among the younger pitchers.
"They got here because they're pretty good at baseball," Parker said. "Being able to make those small adjustments is key, and I think an older voice letting them know that is what I'm trying to be."