New man? Parra sharp in defeat

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Tom Haudricourt
Friday, July 10, 2009
— Manny Parra wasn’t sure what to say when told that manager Ken Macha referred to him as a “whipped puppy” when he was demoted to Class AAA Nashville a few weeks back.

“Whipped puppy? It kind of makes you feel like a kid,” Parra said.

“I don’t really like it but the bottom line is, I was struggling.”

Indeed, he was. When the 26-year-old left-hander was removed from the Milwaukee Brewers’ starting rotation and sent to the minors, he was 3-8 with a 7.52 earned run average over 13 starts, including a 0-4 record and 13.50 ERA over his last five outings.

Parra lost his aggressiveness, lost command of his fastball and lost his confidence. Along the way, it’s a wonder he didn’t also lose his mind.

The “new and improved” Parra pitched with a better tempo, pounded the strike zone and showed why the Brewers were excited about him in the first place in his first game back Thursday against St. Louis. Unfortunately, his seven innings of shutout baseball were wasted when the bullpen melted down in a 5-1 defeat.

The disappointing finish did nothing to diminish the way Parra performed, however.

“It was a different look for Manny,” Macha said. “He worked fast, exuded confidence, located his fastball.

“He had a great outing. Just terrific.”

During his time with Nashville, Parra had both his mechanics and brain put up on the rack for repairs with Sounds pitching coach Chris Bosio. Parra sharpened his stuff, especially his split-finger fastball, but perhaps more important, sharpened his focus.

“It really came down to being confident and trusting the fact that I can throw the ball over the plate and put them in counts where they have to swing the bat,” Parra said.

“Before, I was trying to make perfect pitches and stuff like that. Today, I just trusted it and went with it. I didn’t set any expectations for an outcome. I just wanted to go out there and execute the things we worked on.

“I felt ready to come out. The things we had worked on down there, all my bullpens, were going the way I wanted them to go. I was ready.”

Asked if he made a conscious effort to work with a faster tempo, Parra said no. But he admitted that pounding the strike zone with confidence made the proceedings zip by more quickly.

“It probably seemed that way. Quicker at-bats, quicker outs. With confidence, comes speed,” said Parra, who went 1-2 with a 2.92 ERA in four starts with Nashville. “I was definitely more aggressive with my fastball.

“That’s something that Bosio told me. The game’s going to be quicker, your velocity is going to go up. If you’re executing your pitches and being aggressive, those things are going to take care of themselves.

“I know and (the Brewers) know I’m a lot better pitcher than the way I was throwing. It’s just a matter of going out there next time and doing it again.”

Before his demotion to Nashville, Parra complained often about not feeling comfortable. He looked so comfortable against the Cardinals, you wondered if he might take a nap between batters.

“I just feel good,” he said. “Before I went down, I said I didn’t feel comfortable. It was mechanically I didn’t feel comfortable.

“Bosio taught me some things to keep working on and keep me on that straight path to home plate.”

If Parra uses his return performance as a springboard to reach his potential, it will go a long way toward easing the pitching crisis the Brewers have experienced in recent weeks. But he wisely stopped short of saying he deserved to be written into the rotation in indelible ink.

“I’m not thinking about any of that,” he said. “I definitely have a long way to go as far as coming out and doing it again and again.”

Last updated: 10:58 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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