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07/17/07 1:39 AM ET
Sheets to DL; Parra brought up
Ace has finger sprain; highly touted prospect promoted
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers added one new face to the bullpen on Monday and were expecting another on Tuesday after placing starter Ben Sheets on the disabled list with a sprained finger and placing reliever Chris Spurling on the bereavement list to tend to a family matter. Joining the club for the start of a four-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks were highly touted left-hander Manny Parra and right-handed reclamation project Grant Balfour. Both likely will pitch in relief while right-hander Yovani Gallardo slides into the rotation to replace Sheets beginning on Thursday. "We all wrestled with trying to get Yovani in the rotation," Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said. "I don't think the idea was having him take Ben's place, but we're very comfortable. Given the starts that he's had here, there's a lot of confidence in his ability. "Then you have a couple of other guys that we have here now or will be here in Parra and Balfour, who have been very successful at Triple-A with a lot of upside. It's a lot better list of insurance." No decision had been made on who will go back down when Spurling returns Thursday or Friday, according to general manager Doug Melvin. Sheets left his start Saturday in the middle of the fourth inning with a sprained right middle finger, a diagnosis confirmed Monday by an MRI scan. The team said Spurling would discuss his absence, believed to be related to his young daughter, when he returns. With Sheets' and Spurling's status uncertain on Sunday, Parra did not travel with the rest of the Triple-A Sounds to New Orleans and was in uniform with the Brewers on Monday night. Balfour did travel with the Triple-A club, so he was expected to arrive in Milwaukee on Tuesday. "We didn't want [Parra] to get on that flight to New Orleans and then we can't get him if we need him," Melvin said. "It's one of those deals where you have to look at the travel schedules and base your moves on that." Parra, who threw a perfect game in his second Triple-A start, joined a bullpen that was a bit short. Long relievers Carlos Villanueva and Gallardo were used for extended stints over the weekend, and Brewers manager Ned Yost said it would be "pushing it" to use Villanueva on Monday night. According to a report in the Nashville Tennessean, Parra left the Sounds during Sunday's 2-1, 10-inning win over Memphis. "We're not sure how long he'll be up there, but it's good for him," Sounds manager Frank Kremblas told the newspaper. Parra, 24 and coming back from 2005 shoulder surgery, went 7-3 with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts with Double-A Huntsville before a promotion to Nashville. He went 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA in four starts with the Sounds, including an 11-strikeout perfect game at Round Rock on June 25. "I feel like I still haven't fully understood it. It was crazy," he said after arriving at Miller Park on Monday. "It's been a pretty good month. Hopefully I can keep it going." Parra has not pitched since July 6, and Yost did not rule out using him in a myriad of different situations on Monday. Parra pointed out that the last time he was at Miller Park was Aug. 15, 2003, when he played for the Class A Beloit Snappers alongside current Brewers Prince Fielder, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Rickie Weeks. The Snappers and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers played a game dubbed the "Battle for Wisconsin" which drew 14,147 fans. Moving to relief will be a flashback to Spring Training, but in those instances, Parra generally had a schedule of which innings he would pitch. "It's going to be an adjustment, trying to figure out when to work out and when to get work in. Once I figure it out, I think I'll be fine. But I've never done it on a consistent basis." Balfour, 29, pitched for the Twins from 2001-2004 but underwent "Tommy John" elbow surgery in May 2005 and then shoulder surgery in October of that year. The Brewers claimed him off waivers from Cincinnati last October and Balfour started the year with Parra at Double-A Huntsville, posting a 2.38 ERA in eight games. He then went 1-1 with a 1.69 ERA in 24 relief appearances at Nashville, featuring a high-90s fastball. Parra will wear uniform No. 43 with the Brewers and Balfour wears No. 62. The newcomers will again test the Brewers' depth of pitching. Last season, the team floundered after losing Sheets and Tomo Ohka to shoulder injuries and cycled through a variety of pitchers. Replacements for Sheets and Ohka went 6-17 until, finally, Villanueva and left-hander Zach Jackson helped stabilize the staff after more than a month of chaos. "We've got a lot of depth," Yost said. "We've got really quality kids we can plug into the mix. Guys like Gallardo, Villanueva, Manny Parra, Balfour. We've got guys who have been throwing lights-out down in Nashville. "Last year, we went through this and we got killed," Yost said. "We didn't have any of this last year. We thought we did. We thought we had Dana Eveland, Ben Hendrickson. But, what did we go in those spots, 6-17? We're covered now."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.