Parra just happy to be back
“Just putting on baseball pants is kind of a big deal for me,” said the Milwaukee Brewers left-hander.
Parra’s days in uniform were few and far between in 2011. His journey of misery began with an ailing back in spring training and morphed into elbow issues that eventually led to surgery to remove a bone spur. When all was said and done, he missed the entire big-league season.
“Last year was a tough one,” said Parra, 29. “I think the back thing started with my hip surgery (the previous off-season). I don’t think things were right. Maybe I tried to do too much too soon.
“I’m thinking the elbow was related to the back. Right now, my body feels good. Baseball, and sports in general, it works as a chain. When one link is down, it throws it all off. That’s the only way I can explain. It was boom, boom, boom.”
To accelerate his comeback, Parra went to the Dominican Republic in early December to pitch in the Brewers’ new baseball academy. He also moved to the Phoenix area, allowing him to get a jumpstart on spring training; he already has thrown a half-dozen bullpen sessions.
“I’m pleased with how I feel,” he said. “Removing that bone spur was big because I couldn’t even straighten my arm without hurting. It’s constantly work, so I’m not getting too high. I’m getting my work in and enjoying every day.”
Parra doesn’t want to get ahead of himself, so he doesn’t spend much time thinking about making the Brewers’ roster. But manager Ron Roenicke has said that Parra and Zach Braddock will be given every chance to win a job as lefties in the Brewers’ pen.
“I don’t think about it because I feel like as long as I’m healthy, I should be OK,” Parra said. “It’s great just to be back out there. I didn’t feel like part of the team last year. I watched from here and rooted for them, but it was tough. It just sucks being injured.
“I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve been through a lot, but I’m still here.”
Pen is mightier
Despite the losses of veteran relievers LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito, Roenicke believes the Brewers again will have a strong bullpen because of the choices available in camp. It helps that Parra, Braddock and Brandon Kintzler are back from health-related issues and Jose Veras figures to assume an important role after being acquired from Pittsburgh.
Versatile Kameron Loe is back to pitch in whatever situations arise. Beyond Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford at the end of the bullpen, others in the mix include Tim Dillard and Mike McClendon.
“I think if everybody is healthy, we’ll have more depth,” Roenicke said.
“There will be a bigger group of guys that really will be fighting for one or two jobs. I like our bullpen. I know we’re losing (Saito and Hawkins), but we did a nice job replacing them with other guys that were hurt last year coming back. I think that gives us hopefully the same look we had last year.”
Marco Estrada, the middle reliever who served as a spot starter in 2011, will be stretched out as a starting pitcher in camp, as will Mike Fiers and WilyPeralta.
Carlos Gomez suffered his share of frustration in 2011, first losing his starting job in center field and later missing six weeks with a broken collarbone suffered making a diving catch in Arizona.
None of that compared to what Gomez experienced in December, however, when 2 1/2-year-old son Yandel had to be hospitalized for 15 days with a serious illness in the Dominican Republic.
“He got meningitis, and some bacteria went to his brain,” Gomez recounted.
Gomez, who had been playing winter ball, dropped everything and remained at his son’s side around the clock as he recovered.
“After that I had to be at the hospital all day, every day with him. He’d sleep all day,” said Gomez. “It’s hard. This is the first time my son got sick. “He was in the hospital, and I had to be in the hospital, too. I was so nervous they had to give me something to settle me down. It was a hard time, but he’s normal now. I’m going to have him checked here (in the United States), too, but everything is fine.”
Once Yandel was stabilized, Gomez finished his winter ball season with a playoff run before arriving at the Brewers’ spring training complex in Maryvale four days before the official reporting date for position players.
Agony of the feet
Roenicke, whose playing career was marred by a similar injury, said your ankle is never really the same after suffering the kind of injury that second baseman Rickie Weeks incurred last July. After turning his ankle horribly on the first-base bag, Weeks missed six weeks and wasn’t himself upon returning to action.
Weeks said at the “Brewers On Deck” fan fest in late January that his foot still wasn’t 100 percent recovered. But Roenicke doesn’t expect Weeks to be restricted in camp.
“I’m not planning on reining him back unless something comes up with it,” he said. “Just personal experience, I tore up an ankle like he did, and it never really is the same. Now, does it change the way you play? No. But you never have the total flexion you did before; you feel it more often.
“But it doesn’t affect what you do. Anytime you sprain an ankle that bad, it’s never the same. But really, I don’t expect it to slow him down at all.”
Because the Brewers are so thin at shortstop, they made an offer to veteran Edgar Renteria to attend camp on a minor-league deal. Renteria turned it down and reportedly is considering retirement.
“I don’t blame him for saying no,” said general manager Doug Melvin. “He was a World Series MVP two years ago.”