Parra continues to carve out niche with Nats

Asking Nationals manager Davey Martinez to pinpoint what he likes most about what Gerardo Parra brings to the club is like asking a parent in a large family which child he loves the most.

There's really no answer to the question, but each different facet of Parra's game seems to make Martinez take notice.

Though Parra hasn't played regularly since 2018, his last of three seasons with the Rockies, he's figured a way - ways, really - to make clubs make room for him.

Gerardo-Parra-Yelling-After-Grand-Slam-Red-at-LAD-Sidebar.jpgYou need a versatile veteran who can defend all three outfield positions? Parra's your guy, and not just because he's won Gold Gloves for his play in left (2011) and right (2013) fields.

You need a professional hitter who can stay sharp enough to make one at-bat as a pinch-hitter count? Parra can deliver. He might not have marked success as a pinch-hitter - he was just 9-for-47 in 2019 for the Nats and is a career 47-for-199 in a pinch - but he will grind out at-bats, make opposing pitchers work deep into a count and has a knack for doing what's needed, whether it's advance a runner with a groundout or drive someone in with a fly ball.

Few players bring the energy that Parra totes with him into each game, an overlooked trait that isn't found in his equipment bag. The 34-year-old is a good role model for younger players and a valued voice of experience in the clubhouse.

"I appreciate guys like that - guys that bring that energy, guys that play all over, different positions, hit all over in the lineup and do his job every day," Martinez said via Zoom before Saturday's game in Miami. "Come in and pump his teammates up. For me, that's a commodity when you have a guy like that on your team. And he does it well, as we all know. He's a guy that, no matter what I ask him to do, he goes out and tries to do the best at it. It's great to have him here and help the team."

Case in point: A couple of days ago, when the Nats feared that Josh Bell might be dealing with a right oblique strain, there was Parra in a first baseman's mitt, taking ground balls at loanDepot Park, just in case he might be needed. The 12-year veteran has played just 39 career games at first base, including 14 games (12 starts) with the Nats in 2019.

"He takes pride in everything he does, he really does," Martinez said. "He works diligently on all three outfield positions. The other day, he took a bunch of ground balls at first base. He's constantly in the cage, trying to get better. He's in there preparing during games for that one pinch-hit he gets. When you see a guy like that ... that prepares himself well, that can help the young guys when he's sitting there and talking about the game, it's awesome to have."

"Baby Shark" and dugout dancing aside, Parra plays an important role on the Nationals, and the way he goes about his business is a good template for younger players to follow.

"He's never tired, never with the head down," right fielder Juan Soto told MASN's Dan Kolko during an interview on "Nats Xtra." "He's always positive, always pushing, trying to help the team as much as he can. It don't matter if we win, it don't matter if he does well. ... He's coming with the same energy every day."

Martinez said Parra isn't shy about engaging his youthful teammates, even if they are the same players battling him for at-bats and playing time. Parra's is the voice of experience and he embraces the role of mentor, Martinez said.

"When he wants to say something to you, believe me, he's going to say it," Martinez said. "Nothing's going to hold him back. He's very good with that. It's all about instruction with him. And getting to kind of open up a little bit. And knowing it comes from a teammate helps a lot with players."

And it's not just the manager who has been impressed by the way Parra has carved out his niche with the Nationals. New teammate Josh Bell thought he'd played with high-energy guys before. Then he got a taste of how Parra invigotates a bench and clubhouse.

"I'd heard stories in spring. Everybody's like, 'This guy is something else and the energy that he brings is second to none,' " Bell said after Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Marlins. "I felt in the past I've played with guys like him and I was wrong. He's definitely a special character and he's definitely fun to play with."

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