PHOENIX -- Brewers left-hander Manny Parra had a working Thanksgiving holiday in the Dominican Republic, jump-starting his bid to rebound from a 2011 season lost to injuries. Parra spent three weeks in late November and early December at the team's new Dominican academy , which had opened only weeks earlier and was hosting an instructional league. The trip allowed Parra, recovering from elbow surgery, to pitch in a pair of games. "I knew if there was any opportunity to pitch, I needed to take it," Parra said.
The idea was floated by Brewers farm director Reid Nichols, who was part of the team that struck an agreement with former Brewers closer Salomon Torres to re-christen the academy in November. It was previously occupied by the Rangers. The facility includes baseball fields, along with housing and classroom space for Latin American prospects. "It was there, and he needed to throw innings," Nichols said. "The good thing was there was no commitment from a [Winter League] club required. You didn't have to talk a club into taking him for a little bit down there."
Parra, incidentally, was at the academy on the morning Brewers pitching prospect Santo Manzanillo was injured in an auto accident.Now, Parra and Manzanillo are both healthy participants in camp, and Parra is aiming to keep it that way. He was hampered by a back injury in 2011 Spring Training, then sprained his elbow during a rehab assignment. Parra avoided a Tommy John ligament replacement surgery, but he did undergo a procedure in late August to remove some bone spurs from the joint. Originally, doctors believed they would also have to remove an old screw from a previous surgery. On further inspection, that was not necessary. The procedure made a big difference. Before, Parra couldn't throw a chest pass without a shooting pain in his elbow. Now, he's already throwing bullpens, including a session Monday that was monitored very closely by Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "It's nice and free," Roenicke said. "He feels healthy. That's important. When you're out all year, that's tough." Parra hopes to avoid a repeat. "Last year was hip surgery, back, elbow, then something else in the elbow," Parra said. "It was just one of those years."