Manny Parra dropped to 0-4 yesterday, and while he managed to escape with just one earned run in five innings, he allowed eight baserunners, including three walks, and two unearned runs. Even with the semi-successful outing, Parra's ERA is still 6.52 and he's still throwing strikes just 57% of the time, including first pitch strikes to just 7 of 24 batters he faced yesterday.
Maybe it's time to try something new and shake things up a bit. What if Mike Rivera was allowed to catch Parra?
A different face behind the plate might be a welcome change of pace for Parra. Certainly, game calling ability is part of the gritty veteran stereotype placed on Kendall, but it's pretty difficult to quantify, and when a pitcher isn't really doing anything well, how much worse can it get? Best case scenario: Having a fresh perspective behind the plate gives Parra an opportunity to shake off his early struggles and begin anew. Worst case scenario: Parra is the same pitcher and the Brewers give their sub-.500 OPS catcher an extra day off.
Certainly, the Brewers would not be losing much at this point by giving Jason Kendall more time off. Kendall is hitting just .184/.276/.204 in 2009 (OPS+ of 27), and his defense, widely credited as a major source of his value in 2008, hasn't reached that level in 2009. Kendall is just 2-for-15 throwing out basestealers, down over 30% from last season and down 15% from his career average. He's also already made 3 errors, half as many as he made all of last season.
Furthermore, in a small sample size, Mike Rivera has demonstrated the ability to hit. He has just 97 plate appearances as a Brewer over the last three seasons, but has hit .299/.358/.483.
A side note: I sent a text question to the booth during yesterday's game asking what players like Brad Nelson, used to playing every day in the minors, do to stay sharp for the limited action they're seeing during the season. I should have asked what Mike Rivera does, and why everyone else in baseball isn't copying it: among hitters who consistently go a week or more between plate appearances, there's probably not a more effective hitter in baseball.
And, for whatever it's worth, when Parra threw his perfect game in AAA in 2007, Mike Rivera was his catcher.
Simply put, with Manny Parra continuing to struggle, I don't see a compelling reason not to let Mike Rivera catch Manny Parra for a couple of starts and see what happens. What do you think?