Manny’s Gone South. So What’s Next?

For Milwaukee Brewers fans, the ugliest battle of the month hasn’t been David Letterman versus Sarah Palin.

It’s been Brewers starting pitcher Manny Parra versus opposing batters.

It’s a battle that Parra, with a 13.50 ERA over his last five starts, has been losing.

Saturday, after another horrible start in which he gave up six runs in 1-2/3 innings against a toothless Chicago White Sox lineup (the Sox have been shut out nine times this season, the most in baseball), Parra finally lost the war, as he was sent down to AAA Nashville.

Parra was informed of the decision before the game was even over. You get the feeling that manager Ken Macha wished he had one of those Star Trek transporter machines so he could have sent Parra from the Miller Park mound directly to the showers at Herschel Greer Stadium in Music City.

But as quick as Macha was to jettison Parra, he was equally quick to say that due to a couple of upcoming off days, Parra would not need to be replaced in the starting rotation until June 28, leaving open the possibility that Parra’s minor league stint would be a brief one.

Brewers fans have to hope that the only Manny that returns to the majors in the next three weeks is suspended Dodger Manny Ramirez. Wisconsin fans are welcoming people – OK, maybe they won’t welcome a purple-wearing Brett Favre too nicely to Lambeau Field on November 1 – but Parra, credited with only five Brewers wins since last July, has clearly worn out his welcome here.

But what then can the Brewers do to improve their five-man starting rotation, give their wearying bullpen some relief, and also get closer Trevor Hoffman – completely unused for nearly a week early this month (if I wanted to hear some AC/DC, I had to tune to Bone Yard on my Sirius satellite radio) – some more save opportunities?

Clearly one option – the cheapest and easiest – would be to move middle reliever Seth McClung back to the starting rotation. And it might be the best option, as McClung has pitched well this season, only surrendering 10 runs in over 34 innings of work for an impressive 2.60 ERA and 3-1 record.

But moving McClung back to the rotation lacks, well, excitement. And despite the Brewers having one of the dullest human beings on the planet as their manager, General Manager Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio proved after last year’s trade for CC Sabathia that they’re not afraid of making some noise.

And seeing how Sabathia single-handedly saved Milwaukee’s season last year, you can bet that Melvin – despite just last week refuting trade rumors as “absolutely false” – and Attanasio are curious to see whether lightning can strike twice. 

Even if a trade is made, fans praying for the second coming of Sabathia will have to prepare to be disappointed – this year there does not look to be any dominant, still-in-his-prime pitcher available.

But with the Disney Channel’s Handy Manny striking more fear in major league hitters than Manny Parra, any addition would have to be seen as an upgrade.

So who’s out there?

The biggest name is probably Pedro Martinez, he of the lifetime 214-99 record, the career 2.91 ERA, the eight All-Star selections, and the three Cy Young Awards. Martinez hasn’t pitched well lately (5-6 with 5.61 ERA with the Mets in 2008), but he did make an impressive appearance in March’s World Baseball Classic. Also, the Cubs are rumored to be interested in Martinez, so securing him would have the potential added bonus of blocking him from going to their biggest rival. But the 37-year-old Martinez would ultimately cost more (his agent is reportedly seeking $5 million for the year) than he’s likely worth at this point in his career.

Tom Glavine, who with 305 wins had the most victories of anyone in the majors on an active roster before being surprisingly cut by the Braves earlier this month, is an interesting option, especially given his pedigree and the fact that he’s a southpaw. But the Braves made it clear that the 43-year-old Glavine was released not for financial reasons but for performance issues – he was coming back from elbow and shoulder surgery – and their strong statements about Glavine’s lack of ability might be enough to scare off serious suitors. After all, the Braves know a thing or two about pitchers.

Trade rumors swirled heavily around 2007 NL Cy Young winner and San Diego pitcher Jake Peavy last month; in fact he was in effect traded to the Chicago White Sox until Peavy utilized the no-trade clause in his contract to block the trade. At the time Peavy declared that remaining in San Diego was best for his family, but after the Sox deal and the fact that Peavy was nearly traded to the Cubs last season, you have to wonder how long a pitcher can remain with a team that so clearly doesn’t want him. Unfortunately for Peavy and any interested teams (and for the Padres, since they are clearly trying to move him), a just-diagnosed strained tendon in his right ankle will likely sideline him for 8-12 weeks.

Other pitchers potentially available include Brad Penny of the Boston Red Sox and Jerrod Washburn of the Seattle Mariners, but one name conspicuously absent from all the trade rumors is former Brewers ace Ben Sheets.

The Mets are reportedly interested in Sheets, but after having surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in February, Sheets has been rehabbing his elbow at a facility near his home in Texas while reportedly visiting former Brewers pitching coach Mike Maddux, who is now the pitching coach for the Texas Rangers. So a deal with the Rangers appears most likely. But no one from Sheets’s camp is coming forward with any information about how well Sheets’s rehab is coming along, which is not a good sign.

The uncertainty regarding Sheets’s health was, of course, a consistent presence during his years with the Brewers. If he can pitch, Milwaukee fans, used to seeing Sheets’s availability limited to less than a season, might be willing to roll the dice on him one more time. Most Brewer faithful would probably argue that a 75% healthy Sheets would be more effective than a completely-healthy Parra.

And for Melvin and Attanasio, two men not afraid of causing a stir, the only way they could top last year’s Sabathia-led playoff run would be with a playoff run led by the triumphant return of Olympic gold medalist and fan favorite Ben Sheets.


One Response

  1. The Brewers have two decent starters in AAA Nashville–Mike Burns, who came up earlier in the year and pitched four scoreless innings against the Marlins; and Chris Cody, who has put up impressive numbers in his three starts for the Sounds. Burns clearly deserves a chance, and could join the Brewers’ rotation as early as next Thursday, and Cody deserves serious consideration after a few more starts in Nashville.

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