MIAMI -- The emergence of rookie shortstop Didi Gregorius, along with the strong play of third baseman Eric Chavez, has cut into infielder Cliff Pennington's playing time.
He got the start on Sunday at second base, his first in five days and only his second since May 9. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and was lifted for a pinch-hitter with two outs and the bases loaded in the ninth.
It's an unfamiliar role for Pennington and he is experimenting with what he needs to do to stay sharp between starts.
"I'm still working on that part," he said. "Until a couple of weeks ago, I had never not played three days in a row. It's a different mentality. It's still preparing yourself for the game, but trying not to over grind it and overdo it just because you have time to tinker."
Pennington has a good model in teammate Eric Hinske, who has made a living the past few years of coming off the bench.
"I've definitely watched him and talked to him about what he does, because he's got a very specific role and job and he's very good at it," Pennington said. "Mine's a little different because I have to prepare for defense too or baserunning or something like that, plus I come in earlier [in the game] than him. You've got to be ready for one specific moment of the game and it's usually a pretty big moment."
Parra making noise in clubhouse, on field
MIAMI -- The blasts from the air horn come at irregular intervals prior to batting practice.
One thing that is consistent is the smile that appears on outfielder Gerardo Parra's face after he startles his teammates with the loud noise inside the relatively small visitors' clubhouse.
One of the blasts could be heard loud and clear in Kirk Gibson's office during the manager's pregame media session Sunday. Gibson just smiled.
"Whatever makes him happy," Gibson said. "Just keep playing. I enjoy it."
And what's not to enjoy about Parra these days? He came into Sunday's game hitting .327 and was third in the National League with 55 hits.
Add to that his usual stellar defense -- he threw out another runner trying to score on Saturday -- and his teammates are willing to tolerate a little clubhouse noise.
"He's got energy and he's fun," Gibson said. "He likes to compete, likes to be challenged."
Especially by opposing baserunners who will get the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag as he jogs off the field after throwing them out.
Parra provided all the offense in Brandon McCarthy's 1-0 win Saturday night with a leadoff homer, and also saved that run with his defense. McCarthy was asked after the game what he knew about Parra before joining the D-backs this past offseason.
"Defensive wizard was what I heard," McCarthy said. "I had never really seen him as a hitter outside of maybe a spring game where you're half paying attention anyway. Did I know he was this or capable of this? I had no idea of that."
Parra went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in Sunday's 2-1 loss, but is still batting .320.
• D-backs catcher Miguel Montero has tried a number of different things to snap out of his season-long slump. On Saturday, he tried some positive self-talk as he walked around the clubhouse before the game, telling anyone who would listen that it was about to be "Miggy Time."
Montero did collect a single in the game, but entered Sunday's game with a .184 batting average. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts, and is now hitting .180.
"He's been battling," Gibson said. "We're going to get him going, he's going to get it going. You start to analyze things, you pretty much cover it A to Z and it gets tough. You have to go up there and not be over-thinking the situation. If you do, it makes it tough, you analyze things you don't need to analyze."
• You knew first-base umpire Brian O'Nora must have missed the call in the seventh inning Saturday night -- when he ruled Marcell Ozuna had gotten his hand back to first ahead of Montero's pickoff throw -- just by the reaction of first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Replays showed Ozuna was indeed out, and the fact that Goldschmidt said just a few words to O'Nora spoke volumes. Goldschmidt said he could not remember talking to an umpire about a call before that. It also was a clear sign to those sitting in the Arizona dugout.
"I know he had him," Gibson said. "When you see Goldy talking to the umpire, it's a pretty good indication. When I saw Goldy talking to him I had a pretty good idea that Goldy had some basis for that. He said what he had to say and walked away."
• According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a leadoff homer was hit on the game's first pitch, and it ended up being the only run in a 1-0 visiting team win, was Sept. 14, 1993, when the Pirates beat the Marlins.
That game, however, was shortened after six innings due to rain. The last nine-inning game to be decided that way was Sept. 2, 1963, when the Reds' Pete Rose homered off Mets starter Jay Hook.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.