GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jarrod Parker has very high expectations of himself, to the degree that he called his 2013 season "mediocre" on Monday and not one that left him terribly satisfied.
His ERA went up a half a run from the previous year to 3.97, he gave up 14 more home runs, and he finished with one less win even though he made more starts while finishing 12-8.
On the other hand, counting the playoffs, Parker exceeded 200 innings for the first time in his pro career, had a 19-start unbeaten streak -- longest in franchise history since Lefty Grove in 1931 -- and won his only playoff start against Detroit in the American League Division Series.
Most pitchers wouldn't call that mediocre, but that's the bar Parker sets.
"I want to be great and continue getting where I need to be," he said. "I always look and think there are adjustments that could have been made. There are just a lot of things you aren't content with in a mediocre season. And in my mind, it was. I want to be better."
Parker's season might have looked a whole lot better if not for his April start. Following a rocky spring training, he opened 2013 with an 0-4 record and an 8.10 ERA as opponents hit .374 against him.
Hence, this spring, the 25-year-old right-hander is intent on getting off to a more focused and productive start. That goal didn't look like it was making much headway Monday when Parker gave up four runs in the first inning to the Dodgers -- including a three-run home run to Andre Ethier and a solo shot to Juan Uribe -- in a game that wound up an 8-8 tie.
At that point, Parker's spring ERA had soared to over 17 in three spring appearances. But Parker settled down and allowed just one hit the rest of the way, striking out five, including three straight to finish his outing. He got the ERA down to 10.61 with his subsequent 32/3 innings of scoreless work.
Parker was less concerned about the numbers than his mental approach, one that he feels impacted him in 2013 in getting off to such a horrible start.
"The first inning early on last year I was just trying to settle in a little bit, when I don't really think I need to do that," he said. "It's not conducive to the way I need to pitch. From hitter one, I need to be aggressive with a good mentality."
Manager Bob Melvin thought Parker was ready to come out blazing against the Dodgers but was more than satisfied with his young pitcher's outing. Parker remains one of three candidates to be the opening-day starter.
"He threw really well, and he was prepared to get after it in the first inning, they just hit some first pitches and then Ethier hit the homer off him," Melvin said. "But after that, I thought he settled in very nicely."
Melvin understands Parker wants to eliminate the "settle in" part, however, and the manager has been encouraging that approach in Parker throughout the spring.
"He wants to be on it right away," he said. "It's a good mindset to have."
"He's having really good at-bats now, he's not trying to pull the ball, he's staying within himself," Melvin said. "He has plenty of power to hit home runs to any field."
"That's one of the things he's not used to doing, picking balls at first base," Melvin said. "He'll get more comfortable doing it, and he looks good over there. Like I've said before, his hands play anywhere, so we don't feel like it's going to be a problem."
Taylor is in a battle for the last outfield spot with Sam Fuld, who has an out in his contract to become a free agent if he doesn't make the team.