Slider key to Parra's breakout season

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Reds left-hander Manny Parra has turned his career around this season.

Parra is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA overall, but he has been dominant lately in allowing one run over his past 22 appearances. He has stranded 15 of the last 16 runners he has inherited.

Parra came into the year 26-35 with a career 5.12 ERA.

The key to his improvement has been the slider -- a pitch he didn't begin throwing until the Reds acquired him.

"I think that's the key," Parra said. "A lot of other things seem the same. What the slider is able to do is give me confidence of being able to get ahead with something other than a fastball.

"Before, I felt like I had to be perfect with the fastball. Now, I don't feel that way. I'm getting some different swings on my fastball compared to before. Man, when they're just looking fastball, they can hit it."

They did that earlier on. Parra gave up 15 hits in his first 6 2/3 innings. But when he went the disabled list April 26 with a strained pec muscle, he was able to master the slider during rehab. He stopped using his curveball completely.

"He really needed a breaking ball he could throw for a strike," Reds pitching coach Bryan Price said. "The slider was going to be an easier pitch to throw. His curveball wasn't an impact pitch, and it wasn't a high-percentage strike pitch."

Parra has a 1.90 ERA since returning from the DL.

"I learned that I didn't have to try to make it nasty," he said. "If I just stayed on it and made the grip work, I was able to get some quick outs. I like that."

--Right-hander Jonathan Broxton's time on the disabled list wasn't pleasant, but it helped that the Reds' bullpen did well in his absence.

"I hate being on the DL, but I had to do my time down there and make sure everything was right. I'm excited to get back and hopefully help this team out," Broxton said. "It was a struggle the last whatever, seven or eight weeks. It sucked, but I'm back today and down for the home stretch.

"The bullpen's done a great job picking up my slack. I've been missing seven or eight weeks. It's time for me to come back and help them out."

Broxton went on the DL June 15 with as a flexor mass strain in his right elbow.

He won't go right back into the main setup role.

"We're excited to have him, we're not sure we're going to throw him right back in the eighth inning or not because (J.J.) Hoover is throwing so good," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We were patient with Hoover when earlier in the year they were getting ready to hang Hoover -- and Parra.

"Sometimes you've got to wait them out. We'll probably give Broxton some time, as he throws more and more, then he'll eventually get to that role. I'm glad to have him back."
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