Mailbag: Best course with Parra?

Mailbag: Best course with Parra?

The Crew can't really keep Manny Parra out of their rotation, can they? He has been fantastic, while Chris Capuano and Dave Bush have been pretty much the polar opposite. I just can't fathom why Parra and Carlos Villanueva wouldn't be the fourth and fifth starters when Yovani Gallardo comes back.
-- Derek S., Fort Atkinson, Wis.

Parra is making it very, very difficult for the Brewers to send him to Triple-A Nashville, but it still looks to me to be the most likely scenario. Assuming he continues to pitch like this (0.64 ERA in four games), would a demotion be unfair? Probably. But Brewers manager Ned Yost is building a case that stashing a guy like Parra could make sense, for a couple of reasons:

1. He could benefit from experience. Parra began last season down at Double-A Huntsville before rising through the ranks, and at 25 years old, it would not hurt him at all to begin a season at the Triple-A level. Bush and Capuano have had big league success, and that counts.

2. He could prove his durability. Parra fought through two years of shoulder woes before his breakthrough 2007. Again, he's only 25, and it might not kill him to offer more proof he can stay healthy.

3. It's just as simple as picking your best five pitchers. We have heard this line consistently from Yost this spring, and Claudio Vargas comes into play here. He's out of options, and if you do not give him a spot in the rotation or the bullpen, you almost certainly lose him on waivers. Even those who point out that Vargas is no Cy Young can agree that it's a bad idea to give away a guy who won 12 games last year. The idea, Yost will argue, is building the best staff (five starters, plus a few capable backups in the Minors) for 162 games. That does not always jibe with those outsiders who are only worried about "today."

4. Parra could be this year's Gallardo. Two years ago, when the Brewers lost Ben Sheets and Tomo Ohka to injuries, they struggled badly to find replacements. Last year, first when Capuano strained his groin and later when Sheets injured his finger, they called on Gallardo and he answered. Parra could be this guy this year, a talented arm at the ready down at Triple-A who could slap a Band-Aid over a cut. Few teams need only five starters over the course of a season, so you could argue that even if Parra does not make the Opening Day roster, he will pitch in the big leagues at some point.

All of this debate is fine, but there are still about two weeks left in Spring Training and the picture could look different later on. The Brewers could trade some of their pitching surplus, although it seems Yost and general manager Doug Melvin are committed to maintaining lots of depth. And the one thing you cannot predict is injury, a few of which can dramatically alter the debates already beginning to simmer.

And there you go. Just as I am putting the finishing touches on this story, word arrives that Capuano exited his start in Peoria with a sore elbow. We will have to check on the severity of the injury over the coming days.

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I noticed in the Spring Training game's box scores, that not many backups are getting many innings. The starters are going all the way to sixth inning, sometimes further. It seems like the starters would be gone after a few innings in the past years. I think it would be wise to give the guys fighting for a roster spot more playing time, like Mike Rivera, Vinny Rottino, Eric Munson, Abraham Nunez, etc. Why are the starters getting all of the playing time?
- Anthony P., no hometown

We're starting to see a bit more of the players you mentioned. Yost told Jason Kendall over the weekend that he is going to play him on an every-other-day basis, giving more opportunities to Munson, Rivera and Rottino. Kendall did a lot of catching early in the spring, because he needed to get to know the pitching staff.

We are also going to see less of center fielder Mike Cameron over the final two weeks of Spring Training, because Yost wants to see more of Gabe Gross, Tony Gwynn. Jr. and Gabe Kapler, all three of whom will make the Opening Day roster and will fill in during Cameron's suspension.

How will the back end of the bullpen handle the innings this year? Last year, when we had a lead in a close game, it was pretty much Scott Linebrink for the seventh, Derrick Turnbow for the eighth, and Francisco Cordero for the ninth. Obviously it all depends on matchups and who is fresh, but what is the ideal rotation? Is Turnbow still in charge of the eighth?
-- Randy A., Mondovi, Wis.

That would be my bet right now, partly because Turnbow is best when he is used for one inning. We've been through Turnbow's numbers in this space before, and he was nowhere near as erratic as a lot of fans make him out to be. If Eric Gagne falters as the closer, Turnbow would almost certainly be Plan B.

David Riske and Salomon Torres have more flexibility than Turnbow in pitching multiple innings, making them useful in tie games and making it easier for Yost to use Brian Shouse for a batter or two, while knowing he has enough pitching to cover the rest of the game. Seth McClung is on the bubble, but he showed Sunday that he can pitch multiple innings, too. Guillermo Mota is still a bit of a Wild Card for me. He pitched in winter ball, so his fast start was not surprising, but that he has maintained that success this deep into spring is encouraging.

Why would the Brewers carry 13 pitchers, when no other team in the league does so? That just doesn't make any sense. I know the Brewers were in the American League when Yost was playing. Does he realize they are in the National League now and he is going to have to have pinch-hitters available to hit for the pitcher?
-- Adam K., no hometown

I am pretty sure he realizes that. But he also realizes that most everyone in the starting lineup is projected to play all nine innings almost every day this season. Yost is trying to decide what is more valuable; having Nunez or Rottino or Joe Dillon available for an at-bat or two a week, or having an extra bullpen arm to preserve the main guys for key situations?

It sounds to me like they will go with a 12-man staff and render this whole discussion moot.

What is Plan B at second base if Rickie Weeks continues to be hurt and underachieve? I know he had a nice September, but with his barely average defense and propensity to strike out, do you think Yost will give him as much rope as in the past if he continues to hit below expectations?
-- Terry, Chicago

I thought that Yost was planning on batting Kendall ninth in the order so he could move Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun up in the order to get them more at-bats. Recent articles have said he will bat Kendall in the nine spot, but he's also planning on keeping Fielder and Braun in the three and four spots. Don't these two ideas conflict each other?
-- Alex G., Madison

The idea began with moving up Braun to the two-hole. But on further inspection, Yost decided he liked Cameron there (yes, he strikes out, but he also works long at-bats, has a decent on-base percentage and was the best in the league last year at advancing from first to third on singles). Now the main benefit of keeping Kendall in the nine-hole, Yost says, is that Kendall is the team's only severe ground-ball hitter. The idea is that if the seven-hole hitter reaches, the pitcher bunts him over and then Kendall is hitting without a double-play in order.

There are going to be times where this looks very bad. If Sheets steps to the plate on Opening Day with two outs and the bases loaded, Yost is going to get roasted. But there are stat guys within the organization who believe strongly that over the course of 162 games, this will be beneficial.

Will Yost hit the catcher spot ninth when Kendall has a day off?
-- Jason T, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

If he stays true to what he is planning, no. The idea of hitting the pitcher eighth is Kendall-specific.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.