Newly promoted Pirates reliever Parker Markel traveled winding road to PNC Park
Major league relief pitchers can face some pretty harrowing situations, coming into a game to face the heart of an opponent’s order with men on base, for instance.
No matter the circumstance when new Pirates pitcher Parker Markel takes the mound, it won’t be the most difficult day he has faced.
At one point during his 10-year climb up the baseball ladder before making his major league debut in May, Markel had an offseason job with Lululemon, working in retail for the fitness apparel company.
“With Black Friday there, I can’t even compare,” Markel said. “That was the hardest day of my life, probably.”
The Pirates called up Markel, a right-handed reliever, from Indianapolis on Saturday when Richard Rodriguez was placed on the paternity list.
Markel’s journey to PNC Park is an interesting one.
The first seven years were pretty standard. Tampa Bay’s 39th-round pick in the 2010 draft, Markel slowly but surely worked his way up through the Rays system before stalling at Triple-A.
In 2017, he signed with a Korean team, but playing overseas didn’t agree with him and he came back home after a few months away. Last year, he latched on with the independent Sioux City Explorers before signing with the Seattle Mariners at the end of the season.
In May, he finally made his major league debut at age 28.
“I’ve been through a lot of different life experiences, especially within the last three or four years,” Markel said. “I feel like everything happens for a reason and prepared me for this point.”
Armed with a fastball that can threaten triple digits on the radar gun, Markel had been brilliant in the minors this season. He was 5-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
Figuring out big league hitters has proven more difficult. He was touched up for eight earned runs, including three home runs, in 4 2/3 big league innings with the Mariners. The Pirates claimed him on waivers last Saturday.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders, the fact that I finally got there after a long time of grinding,” Markel said. “But now, for me, my mindset is I want to go out and prove something.”
The Pirates made one other roster move Saturday, claiming right-handed reliever Yacksel Rios on waivers from Philadelphia and assigning him to Indianapolis. Rios, 26, is 4-2 with a 6.38 ERA in 53 career appearances with the Phillies.
Manager Clint Hurdle also announced his tentative starting pitchers for an upcoming series with Milwaukee. The Pirates will start Dario Agrazal on Monday, Steven Brault on Tuesday and Trevor Williams on Wednesday.
Brault has been out since July 5 with a left-shoulder strain. He made a rehab start with Indianapolis on Thursday, allowing two runs in four innings.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .