PARRA HAS SETTLED IN AS EFFECTIVE, UNTRADITIONAL CLEANUP HITTER
CLEVELAND» As the Rockies continue to juggle the bottom half of their lineup, looking for sparks of promise from struggling sluggers, the top half has been set in place. The linchpin is Gerardo Parra in a surprising spot.
Parra, hardly a slugger in the traditional sense, with 71 career home runs in nine seasons, has taken over the cleanup role in Colorado’s top-heavy lineup, one spot behind Nolan Arenado and just ahead of Mark Reynolds.
Parra’s eight home runs this season are not necessarily a threat to clear the bases, but his .355 average entering Tuesday, with 50 RBIs, pressed manager Bud Black to bump him up in the order.
“We’re getting our best hitters at the top of the lineup,” Black said Tuesday before the Rockies faced Cleveland to start a fivegame road trip. “Is he the prototypical cleanup hitter? Maybe not. But is he hitting .350 and knocking in runs and driving the ball and giving us good at-bats? Yes.”
Parra’s ascension also gives the Rockies an additional left-handed bat in a run-producing spot, with leadoff Charlie Blackmon the other. Parra has relieved some pressure from struggling sluggers Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story near the bottom of the order. On Tuesday, Gonzalez (.228, seven homers) hit seventh and Story (.227, 15 homers) hit ninth.
In a two-game interleague series in an American League city, Black planned to call on rookie Raimel Tapia and Gonzalez as designated hitters. Tapia (.298, two homers) filled the role Tuesday. “He’ll be like a caged lion in between at-bats,” Black said. Gonzalez will DH on Wednesday when they switch spots and Tapia starts in the outfield.
Black considered giving Blackmon and Parra a day off from defense, but they talked their way into full-time appointments.
Injured outfielder Ian Desmond, out since July 26 with a strained right calf, will require a longer recovery than the Rockies initially estimated, Black said. “This is going to turn out to be a little longer than we thought,” the manager said. “A rehab could be in the works. We’ll talk about that. Can’t give you a date.”
More injury updates.
Left-hander Kyle Freeland (left groin strain) played catch and did agility work on the field Tuesday. He will run at full speed Wednesday. “We’re very encouraged,” Black said. Lefty Tyler Anderson (knee surgery) will throw a bullpen session Wednesday, the first in his recovery.
The Rockies on Tuesday hung a No. 25 jersey in their visitors’ dugout to honor Don Baylor, the club’s first manager, who died Monday at the age of 68.
Black, a former pitcher, remembered Baylor from the field.
“He was an old-school tough guy,” Black said. “There was a toughness to him that was real. There was a presence to Don that was felt on the field, whether he was in the game, around the cage, from the other dugout. You knew he was around.”
Baylor, the AL MVP in 1979, was hit by 267 pitches in his 19year career, now fourth-most all time. He was 10-for-31 in his career against Black. Black hit him four times.
“He stood right on the plate. He was a menacing hitter,” Black said. “And he was a gentleman with a lot of class and dignity.”