Notes: Jones, Parra move past injuries
Suppan makes anticipated debut; Jenkins in a hitting groove
PHOENIX -- A group was sitting in Brewers manager Ned Yost's office over the weekend and the subject of right-hander Mike Jones and left-hander Manny Parra came up. Both have ranked among the team's top pitching prospects in recent seasons, but both have slipped on that list because of injuries. Someone mentioned that the mental toll on those types of high-profile prospects must be as tough as the physical.
"Then do something about it!" Yost jumped in. "Go work hard and get themselves back to where they were. They're capable. I don't think the injuries have taken them past that capability. They're not over the hill."
Jones and Parra are trying to do something about it this spring, and they took a step forward on Monday. Parra was sharp in one inning of work and Jones worked around two hits in another scoreless frame to earn the win in the Brewers' 4-3 victory over the White Sox at Maryvale Baseball Park.
"When you have a purpose coming to the field every day, you feel a lot better," said Parra, who underwent shoulder surgery in August 2005, and missed most of last year's Spring Training after a setback.
Parra worked on a limited pitch count for most of 2006, but had some success, going 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 21 games for Class A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville. He also made five starts in the Arizona Fall League.
"Because I finished last year strong, I feel like they look at me differently this time," he said, referring to club officials. "I'm able to think about my pitching, my game, instead of my arm. When you're hurting, the thing in the back of your mind is always your arm. You can't think about pitching."
Jones knows that feeling. The team's first-round draft pick in 2001, he was touted for his smooth delivery that supposedly would help him avoid injuries. But he developed an elbow injury in 2003 that later moved to his shoulder, and he has been limited to 26 regular-season appearances over the last three years. Jones underwent major surgery in October 2004 to repair a SLAP lesion in his shoulder and had another procedure the following April.
Does he feel back to where he was before the injury bug bit?
"Physically, yes," Jones said. "Out there on the mound, not yet. I'm gaining confidence. I still have to make some adjustments and get used to trusting my stuff. I have to figure out again what got me here."
Other young arms have moved ahead of them on the depth chart, but Jones will not turn 24 until next month and Parra will not turn 25 until after the season. Both still believe they have good years with the Brewers ahead of them.
"I would have not spent the last three years rehabbing if I felt like it was going to be a mediocre Minor League career or that I would just fade out without experiencing the big-league level," Jones said. "I believe I am going to be here. I believe I am going to be successful. What other people think is absolutely irrelevant to me."
Said Parra, looking around the Major League clubhouse: "Being here in this room is a different feeling. It's difficult to explain, but it's like you can feel how close you are.
"I feel confident. I've learned a lot from my injuries."
General manager Doug Melvin would not divulge the team's plans for either player this season. Both finished last year at Huntsville.
Long wait ends: Newcomer Jeff Suppan admitted he had some butterflies over the last few days, waiting patiently for his first Cactus League start. Suppan was the last of the team's five-man starting rotation to pitch in a game.
"We've seen him pitch a lot the last few years, but man, was it nice to see him pitch for us," Yost said after Monday's win.
Suppan is 12-2 in his career against Milwaukee, including 5-0 at Miller Park.
He was scheduled to pitch two innings or 35-40 pitches against the White Sox, and instead worked three frames, allowing a run on two hits and a walk. Suppan threw 35 pitches, and for good measure he led off the bottom of the third inning with a single.
He mostly threw fastballs, but mixed in three or four changeups, two curveballs and two cut fastballs.
"I'm sure in my next game I'll pay attention more to my location," Suppan said. "This time, I was focusing on an area -- away up, away down and away off the plate are three different areas. As I get closer [to the regular season] I like to be a little more fine."
Hot start: Another day, another big offensive performance by left fielder Geoff Jenkins. He went 2-for-2 with three RBIs, including a go-ahead single off White Sox left-hander Carlos Vasquez in the eighth inning.
"I think he's really focused in his approach right now," Yost said. "He's not trying to do too much. He's trying to stay in the middle of the field and really focusing on putting the ball in play. It's paying off, big time, for him.
"We've all seen him swing good, but his approach right now is as good as I've seen it," Yost added.
Jenkins, who batted .133 against lefties last season, has had two run-scoring hits off them so far this spring. Yost has said he is considering playing both Jenkins and right-handed hitter Kevin Mench, a career .303 hitter against lefties, in left field this season.
Injury report: Third baseman Tony Graffanino left Monday's game after fouling a ball off his left big toe. The injury is not considered serious, but with Ryan Braun nursing a sore elbow and Vinny Rottino playing first base in place of a banged-up Prince Fielder, the team is thin at third. Craig Counsell is expected to make his first start there on Tuesday against the Cubs. ... Catcher Mike Rivera raised his spring batting average to .615 with a double in the seventh inning, but he later left the game with "irritation" of his left kneecap. He will be re-evaluated on Tuesday. "I hope it's nothing serious," Rivera said. "I feel too good right now." ... Fielder took part in a full morning of batting and fielding practice and could play in a game as early as Wednesday, Yost said. Fielder strained his right quadriceps last week. ... Outfielder Gabe Gross took batting practice Monday and said he is slowly making progress from a strained hamstring. "I don't think I'm going to go out to sprint or anything, but I feel OK," he said.
On deck: The Brewers will travel to HoHoKam Park in Mesa on Tuesday for their first matchup against the new-look Cubs at 2:05 p.m. CT. Claudio Vargas will look to bounce back from a rough debut when he starts for Milwaukee against Chicago's Jason Marquis.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.