A’s pitcher gets first shot at redemption this spring training

Parker Bridwell looking to get back to impressive 2017 form

MESA, ARIZ. – FEB. 13: Parker Bridwell throws batting practice at the Oakland Athletic’s spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
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MESA, Ariz. — It’s tough when nobody wants you.

Parker Bridwell was told he was no longer wanted four times this offseason. The Yankees didn’t want him. The Angels didn’t want him, twice. Even the A’s placed him on waivers shortly after claiming him. Proof baseball can be a cold game.

Most teams would have been crawling all over each other to get their hands on Bridwell after his 2017 season. He went 10-3 with a 3.64 ERA over 20 starts that year and was emerging as a promising fixture in the Angels rotation.

But Bridwell became expendable after missing most of 2018 due to undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow. When he finally returned to the mound near the end of the season, he posted a 17.55 ERA over five games.

“I know how baseball is. It’s a profession that can be pretty cutthroat,” Bridwell said. “What happened to me this offseason can happen to anybody. Once you go through it you find yourself not thinking about the stuff that you can’t control. Now there’s no pressure. I have nothing to lose.”

Now in A’s camp as a non-roster invitee, the right-hander had his first chance to prove he can still throw it as he did two years ago.

Bridwell pitched an inning of work in Saturday’s 6-5 win over the White Sox. He took over in the top of the sixth at Hohokam Stadium and did not start out great as he allowed back-to-back hits, the second an RBI double to Jose Rondon. But Bridwell bounced back and retired the next two hitters to end the inning.

“It was awesome just to be back out there, especially after missing that significant amount of time I did last year,” Bridwell said. “I felt like I could have been a little more down in the zone but it’s the first game. I’m just out there trying to stay healthy and pumping strikes in the zone.”

Bridwell, 27, is among several pitchers in A’s camp battling it out for a spot in the starting rotation.

He’s well aware of his standing coming off a rough 2018 season. It won’t be easy cracking the A’s opening day roster, but Bridwell is looking to make the decision as tough as possible.

“There’s motivation every day coming in here with a bunch of guys fighting for spots,” Bridwell said. “I can’t control what they decide to do. I can only come in and do my job on the mound. I’m coming in and working every day and we’ll see how the bricks fall.”

A’s manager Bob Melvin knows what Bridwell is capable of having faced him plenty of times over the past couple of years. The true evaluation of him won’t come until he gets stretched out to a few more innings in his spring appearances, but Melvin saw some things he liked.

“He’s got a good little breaking ball and split,” Melvin said. “He’s got some velocity. He hits his breaking stuff good, it’s not in the zone for too long. You talk about the depth we have, he certainly is part of that. I think the longer we see him in camp, the more he will impress us.”

Bridwell is hoping the change of scenery will benefit him. He’s always been a fan of the vibe given off by the A’s as an opposing player. It’s even better than what he imagined now actually witnessing it in the clubhouse.

“There’s a family-feel here. Everybody is close to each other,” Bridwell said. “The way they play is second to none. They’re scrappy, like to score runs and do the little things right. I’m all for being a pitcher on this side now.”

Bridwell making the team would be a feel-good story. But he’s not expecting anything to be handed to him. He can’t after the offseason he just went through. He knows anything can happen.

“My phone could ring this spring and things could go the other way,” Bridwell said. “I just have to come in and prove to them that I can get back a repeat a season like I had two years ago.”

— New A’s reliever Joakim Soria threw to hitters at the club’s minor league complex Saturday morning. After dealing with a hip injury last week, Soria is now fully healthy and expected to appear in his first game with the A’s at some point in the next few days.

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