General manager Doug Melvin entered the clubhouse at Miller Park in the fifth inning of Saturday's 7-1 loss to the White Sox and told the 26-year-old Parra that it was time for a break. Parra, who surrendered six hits without escaping the second inning, was optioned to Triple-A Nashville in favor of left-hander Chris Narveson, who will be in the bullpen for Sunday's Interleague series finale against the White Sox.
Moving the slumping Parra -- 3-8 this season and 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA in his last five starts -- made sense for the Brewers now because a pair of upcoming off-days eliminates the need for a fifth starter until June 28.
"It's just disappointing, more than anything," Parra said. "I know what kind of pitcher I am, and I haven't been pitching well at all. ... The numbers don't lie. I haven't pitched the way I'm capable of pitching."
On Saturday, Parra needed to be perfect against Chicago right-hander Jose Contreras (2-5), who worked eight scoreless innings for the second straight start since returning from his own Minor League stint. The Brewers managed just two hits off Contreras, neither of which left the infield.
With 44,100 fans in the stands at sold-out Miller Park and a national television audience watching, Parra faced the minimum three batters in a scoreless first inning, but couldn't get out of the second. He faced 10 batters in the inning, walking three of them and surrendering five hits, including two by first baseman Paul Konerko. After Konerko's two-run single made it 6-0, manager Ken Macha tapped the bullpen for reliever Chris Smith.
"I've been uncomfortable for the whole year," Parra said. "I haven't found something that's working for me. The consistency hasn't been there."
That was putting it mildly. Parra lost all four of his April starts with a 6.52 ERA, then went 3-0 over his next four starts with a 3.00 ERA. Since capping that streak with a win in St. Louis on May 17, Parra is 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA (32 earned runs in 21 1/3 innings), driving his ERA for the season to 7.52.
As Macha began to empty the bullpen over the game's final seven innings -- even Trevor Hoffman pitched for the first time in a week with the Brewers in a 7-0 hole -- it was clear to Melvin that the Brewers needed a fresh arm. He figured it was best to have his talk with Parra before reporters came calling after the game.
"[Parra] was not surprised [by the demotion]," Melvin said. "He expected it. His confidence level is pretty low. He said he doesn't feel confident throwing strikes with any one of his pitches."
Informing a player of a roster move in the middle of a game is not exactly standard operating procedure. In this case, with the team scheduled to leave town on Sunday night for a weeklong road trip and Macha and Parra both sure to get questions about the future, Melvin felt it was the right thing to do.
"I wanted to talk to Manny before he left the ballpark," Melvin said. "I didn't want him to deal with packing a suitcase tonight and then learning at 10 a.m. that he was going to Nashville. I told Manny he needed to go down and get his confidence back, that he won 10 games last year and there's still a long season left."
Asked what he would work on in Nashville, Parra responded with one word: "Command." He will be paired with Triple-A pitching coach Chris Bosio, a former Brewers right-hander who was formerly Lou Piniella's pitching coach in Tampa Bay.
"I think it's good just to be able to focus on the adjustments I have to make," Parra said. "It's tough to go out there and totally commit to an adjustment you're trying to make when you're trying to win a ballgame. You've got a whole team here that's working their butts off to try to win ballgames.
"I've dealt with adversity," Parra added. "I had [shoulder] surgery, so I've been through stuff before. It's not a big deal. I'll go down and work my butt off. That's one thing -- I have no regrets about the way I've worked between starts."
Melvin didn't have to look far for a comparison to lift Parra's spirits. He noted that the White Sox sent Contreras, at his request, to the Minors after a May 8 loss to the Rangers left the veteran right-hander with an 0-5 mark and an 8.19 ERA. The move apparently worked, because Contreras has worked 16 scoreless innings since his return while allowing only three hits.
"[Contreras] was bad for a whole month and a half before they sent him down," Melvin said.
The Brewers' hits off Contreras belonged to Corey Hart, who legged out a single to third base leading off the third inning, and Jason Kendall, who singled off the shortstop's glove in the eighth. Contreras walked two hitters in that inning to load the bases, but retired Craig Counsell on a popout to temporarily preserve the shutout.
The Brewers finally scored in the ninth inning against former Brewer Scott Linebrink, when Casey McGehee hit a pinch-hit single to center field.
"[There's] not a whole lot to talk about in that game, because they had a big lead," Macha said. "We had an opportunity in the eighth with the bases loaded, and we had some good at-bats in the ninth. Guys played hard for 27 outs."
The Brewers, who have lost five of their last six games, still hold first place in the National League Central. To clear a 40-man roster spot for Narveson, the team moved injured second baseman Rickie Weeks to the 60-day disabled list.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.