Parra eyes return to form after disappointing '16

Rockies' free-agent signing struggled with injuries throughout season

Parra eyes return to form after disappointing '16

DENVER -- A couple of nights ago in San Francisco, the Rockies' Gerardo Parra limp down the first-base line after a fly ball that ended a threat. Then he ripped off his batting helmet and tossed it to the sky.

Finally, on Friday, he tossed this season away and began hoping for a new, less painful day. After an MRI on Friday morning, Parra received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection in a left ankle that cost him 46 games because of a high sprain. It never fully healed, so doctors placed his foot in a walking boot, which prohibited him from playing in the final three games.

By Friday, as he shook hands with teammates in the clubhouse, Parra's usual smile and energy spirit were back. And he vows to be back to form in 2017.

"This was a year of too many frustrations for me," Parra said. "I've never gone through a year like this. I've never in my career had injuries. But you know what? I'm positive."

The Rockies signed Parra last winter to a three-year deal worth $27.5 million with hopes that he would provide offense production via high-quality at-bats, as well as the defense that earned him Gold Glove Awards with the D-backs in 2011 and 2013. Instead, the patience went strangely missing and there were notable throws to wrong bases defensively, even before he suffered the ankle injury on June 14 when shortstop Trevor Story accidentally rolled into him after chasing a fly ball in shallow left field.

At times, Parra, 29, admitted pressing after signing his first free-agent contract. Parra also muscled up a few years ago, leading to questions about his outfield range and baserunning. With the ankle still sore, Parra operated as an extra outfielder and first baseman after his return.

Parra finished hitting .253 with a career-worst .271 on-base percentage -- nine walks in 381 plate appearances. The positive was he was leading the National League with 20 doubles at the time of the injury, and he finished with 27 plus three triples.

Parra's RBI double

It all leaves Parra determined to erase all questions next season.

Listed at 5 feet 11 and 201 pounds, Parra is estimated to be 20 pounds heavier than his Gold Glove days. Never a home-run hitter -- he had seven this year -- Parra vows to be sleeker next year.

"I want to lose a lot of weight; I don't feel too comfortable, so that's a big point," said Parra, who said he will work with a group in Miami during the offseason and will eat and train with extreme discipline. "I want to bring back my agility. I don't like playing too big.

"I don't want to say anything about how much I want to lose. When you see me in Spring Training, we'll talk about it."

Parra will have to rest a month to heal before offseason preparation, so he said he doesn't expect to play winter ball in Venezuela as he has in past offseasons.

"My first thought is my ankle," Parra said. "I hurt every day -- in the morning, when I worked out, when I came to the stadium and ran, everything. But I love baseball, and that's why I played."

Parra is the most-expensive open-market signee under Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, who wants to see Parra fight to regain a spot in the lineup, even though 2016 callup David Dahl, the team's 2012 No. 1 Draft pick, showed promise, and late callup Raimel Tapia also has a chance.

"There was some good and some not-so-good prior to the injury. … He's been kind of playing on a leg and a half for the greater part of the second half," Bridich said. "I believe in the guy. I believe in the competitor."

Parra said playing first base was a way for him to play without taxing the ankle, but he believes he is a starting outfielder.

"I don't want to think anything about first base," Parra said. "It's not my decision, but in my mind I want to work on my outfield, and I never put in my mind that I'm a fourth outfielder. We have some great young players, but every team has great players."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.