Manny Parra Dazzles in Loss: Mirage or Sign of Maturity?

Ryan CardarellaCorrespondent IJuly 10, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 01:  Manny Parra #43 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in Game 1 of the NLDS Playoff against of the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Ballpark on October 1, 2008 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Milwaukee Brewers fans have to be encouraged by the stellar return of left-hander Manny Parra, after he stymied the St. Louis Cardinals for seven innings on Thursday afternoon in a 5-1 loss.

But the (multi) million-dollar question for GM Doug Melvin is whether this outing was just a high water mark in a topsy-turvy career for the enigmatic starter, or a sign that Parra straightened himself out in the minors and is ready to fulfill his promise as a top-flight rotation member.

Clearly, Parra has the raw stuff to be a solid No. 2 starter in the major leagues. That fact has never really been questioned.

Parra rose through the minors as a prospect just a rung below ace Yovani Gallardo, with Parra viewed as a potential lefty complement  for "Yo" atop the Brewers rotation in the future.

However, as is the case with many young players, the mental aspect of the game has lagged behind the physical aspect for Parra.

After an excellent pre-All-Star break mark of 8-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 2008—that had fans buzzing about another potential star in the rotation—Parra regressed in an ugly way in the second half, to the tune of a 2-6 record and a 5.32 ERA.

He carried his struggles into 2009, going 0-4 in April and posting an ERA of 16.68 in three June starts before being sent down to Nashville.

At the root of Parra's struggles, is that he tends to nibble around the plate and tries too hard to miss bats instead of simply trusting his stuff. This results in lots of walks and high pitch counts early in games.

Parra's WHIP (walks and hits divided by innings pitched) has been high throughout his career because of his inability to trust his pitches and throw strikes.

He has also struggled to deal with adversity in the big leagues, letting one mistake pitch often snowball into a game-killing rally for the opposition.

The most encouraging aspect of Parra's start is that he walked only one batter over his seven innings, and kept his composure the few times that men were on base for the Cardinals in a tight, tense ballgame.

While his excellent control and calm demeanor in a tight game were encouraging—signs that Parra may have matured a bit in his minor league stint—the Brewers need to see more before they can comfortably depend on him as the No. 2 starter who could carry them into the playoffs.

It still doesn't change the fact that the Brewers need to import another reliable arm to stay afloat in the division.

Having Parra play up to his capabilities is great news, so long as it didn't make Melvin put down the phone.