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Parra tries change of pace: Pitcher focusing on changeup

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McClatchy Tribune
March 10, 2009
— Manny Parra’s friendship with CC Sabathia has led him to a new pitching approach this spring, with hopes of extracting some success from the knowledge Sabathia shared in his short time with the Milwaukee Brewers last season.

Parra is focusing on his changeup as his second pitch, playing it off his fastball and not relying so much on his curveball. While talking shop with Sabathia last year, Parra realized the importance of changing speeds and keeping that pitch down.


Sabathia and Parra, both left-handers and northern California natives, hung out during the offseason. They didn’t talk much baseball, instead taking in NBA games and talking other sports. Parra had already taken what he needed from Sabathia when they were teammates.


“He was using that changeup more, he said, than he ever used it before and that was the reason for his success,” Parra said. “I just listened to that and tried to incorporate it into my game.


”The relationship I was able to build with him made it possible for me to ask him questions like that and pick his brain and him to tell me those types of things. That’s the kind of teammate he is.“


Parra has been sort of a missing man lately, but he was solid in his second outing of the spring Monday against the San Francisco Giants. He threw about 10 changeups in his 46-pitch outing. He didn’t allow a run in four innings and gave up one hit and struck out three.


Parra had only one outing before because he threw on the minor-league side on the March 4 off day, keeping him out of a Cactus League game since Feb. 27.


”It’s nice to get the nervousness and all that stuff,“ Parra said. ”You can’t really judge anything compared to pitching in a real game where fans are there and facing major-league hitters.“


Villanueva getting work

Reliever Carlos Villanueva, the likely set-up man for Trevor Hoffman when the season starts, threw a regularly scheduled bullpen session Monday, and manager Ken Macha discussed meeting with him and pitching coach Billy Castro to set up another possible session in place of his next scheduled outing.


All three men have been concerned with Villanueva’s sharpness to this point in camp and would like him to continue to polish and build up innings. Macha hinted that part of the problem was that Villanueva had always prepared as a starter during spring training, and being strictly a reliever this season could have affected his progression.


Castro said it was still unclear whether Villanueva’s next day to pitch would be in a game or in the bullpen, but he said the right-hander was fine. Castro just wants him to focus on downhill action and fastball command, and Macha liked what he saw last week with Villanueva’s changeup and developing curveball. If Villanueva does throw in a game next, it will very likely be for two innings.


Macha and Castro said Villanueva was close to where they want him and expect him to find a consistent rhythm, as he did Saturday against the Cubs.


Yanks haven’t called

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said he hadn’t heard from the New York Yankees, who are looking around at third-base candidates after losing Alex Rodriguez for at least two months to hip surgery.


”They’re probably still making their list (of possible replacements),“ Melvin said. ”They probably don’t want to seem too anxious.“


If the Yankees are looking for teams with an excess at third base, the Brewers would fit the bill. They still expect Bill Hall to recover from his calf injury in time to open the season at third, and have others there in camp such as Mike Lamb, Casey McGehee and Craig Counsell.


Third-base prospect Mat Gamel is out of the picture while recovering from a shoulder problem.


Currently, the Yankees have journeyman Cody Ransom to play third, so they’re bound to be looking. They probably wouldn’t be interested in Hall because he has $15.4 million and two years left on his contract, and Rodriguez is expected to be back before the all-star break.


The Yankees might have some interest in McGehee, a right-handed hitter who could have a difficult time making the Brewers’ roster out of camp. Melvin said New York probably would seek a right-handed hitter.


Bateman, Scarpetta reassigned

The Brewers cut right-handed pitchers Joe Bateman and Cody Scarpetta on Monday.


Bateman was unimpressive in three outings, compiling an 11.25 earned run average and allowing four hits, two walks and five runs in four innings.


”If you look at his history, he’s got great numbers at every level,“ Macha said. ”When and if he gets to the major leagues, you want him to be able to perform and stay there.“


Scarpetta was in a different situation because of his contract. He was placed on the 40-man roster to avoid being subject to the Rule 5 draft, a move made after one season instead of five because an injury voided his original contract.


It’s confusing, but the technicality had Scarpetta in camp four years early and he never pitched in a real game, making just one appearance in a ”B“ game.


”He had to be on the big-league roster,“ Macha said. ”He needs to go pitch where he’s pitching (minor-league camp) before he gets into an ’A’ game. That’s as nicely as I can put it.“



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