Parisi adjusting well to big league life

Parisi adjusting well to big leagues

SAN DIEGO -- Even with a new role, the game looks pretty much the same as it always has to Cardinals rookie Mike Parisi. The trappings, on the other hand, are still hard for the right-hander to believe at times.

"I walked into my hotel room last night," Parisi said Monday, "and [Adam] Wainwright was right behind me. And I go, 'Dude, this room!' On the field, like [Russ] Springer told me, it's still 60 feet, six inches. But what's different has been the travel. The nice hotels, the nice spreads."

Life in the Pacific Coast League can be a grind. The travel is probably the hardest in all of professional baseball, and it's not as though players spend their nights at Hyatts and Westins. So life in the big leagues feels pretty glorious after life in the PCL.

The rest of it, though, Parisi has handled with grace. In 101 career Minor League games, he never made a relief appearance. Upon his callup, though, he's pitched exclusively out of the bullpen. And he's handled it well, with a 3.27 ERA, nine strikeouts and three walks in five appearances (11 innings).

Called up as a long reliever, Parisi has even found himself pitching in situations other than the traditional mopup often handed to young pitchers.

"He's got a good arm, and he's got a starter arsenal," said manager Tony La Russa. "He's not limited to two pitches. So that helps. And he's been able to make good pitches."

Parisi's third pitch was long a work in progress, but this spring he put extensive work into refining his changeup. It had lagged behind his fastball and curveball until pitching coach Dave Duncan made it a priority in Spring Training.

"During Spring Training, I got some guys out," Parisi recalled. "And Duncan told me some things about my changeup. I took it to heart. I said, 'Hey, this is the man. This is the guy that, everywhere you read, he's the man. And if the man says you do it, you do it.'"

Even after he was sent to Triple-A Memphis, Parisi would sometimes spend more than half of a bullpen session throwing changeups -- potentially to the detriment of his other two pitches.

But it's paid off, as he keeps getting the call to pitch in big league games. Parisi is one of three rookies in the bullpen, and along with Chris Perez, one of two recent callups.

"They've both done a good job," La Russa said. "They're not just guys on the roster. They're guys you can use."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.