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Playing happy key for Parra

MLB.com @harding_at_mlb

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra showed up for the final regular-season game last year in a slump that, after another hitless day, would grow to 1-for-27. But what you need to know about him is that he arrived with purple hair and a smile.

Parra had promised to dye his hair in the Rockies' signature color if they made the postseason, and he wasn't going to let emotion tied to the slump dampen his celebratory hairstyle.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra showed up for the final regular-season game last year in a slump that, after another hitless day, would grow to 1-for-27. But what you need to know about him is that he arrived with purple hair and a smile.

Parra had promised to dye his hair in the Rockies' signature color if they made the postseason, and he wasn't going to let emotion tied to the slump dampen his celebratory hairstyle.

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Smiling, styling and contributing when his body would let him, has been how Parra has handled the roller coaster ride that has been the first two years of his three-year, $27.5 million contract. It's the way he is attacking 2018, which is the last contract year not only for Parra, who figures to start in left field in Thursday's opener at Arizona, but also for center fielder Charlie Blackmon and right fielder Carlos Gonzalez.

"Everybody knows the situation about what can happen with a couple guys here, with next year," Parra said. "Really, on this team, we don't talk about that. We want to make the playoffs and we want to win. If the team wins, everybody wins. That's the pressure we have now, play good every day, play to win every day.

"And play happy."

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Parra, 30, a threat to break into song or dance or even trash-talk at any time, has plenty of practice seeking happiness.

In 2016, Parra was hitting .263 with 20 doubles and five homers when he collided with shortstop Trevor Story while the two were chasing a short pop-up in left field on June 14. Parra would miss 46 games and, with the ankle not fully healed, have to finish the year at the unfamiliar position of first base. His 102 games played were a career-low, as was his .253 batting average.

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Last season, Parra was hitting .318 with a .348 on-base percentage and .480 slugging percentage -- all improvements over '16 -- when he suffered a right quadriceps strain on an aborted stolen-base attempt on June 6. The injury would cost him 28 games. Parra stayed hot upon his return, reaching as high as .363 on July 29, with only the low number of plate appearances keeping him from threatening for a batting title. There was an inevitable slow patch before the season-ending slump, but he finished at .309/.341/.452.

"I can't control that," Parra said of the injuries. "That's a situation that happens in baseball. I don't think anything about that. I just think about working hard. I hope this season I don't have an injury or anything like that. I'm 100 percent this year, so I want to help my team make the playoffs and World Series."

Maybe Parra has his injury out of the way this year. He suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand while taking batting practice before Spring Training, and underwent surgery Feb. 9. After missing the beginning of the spring, Parra is gradually finding his swing.

Video: Outlook: Parra has solid contact rate, not much power

"Every day I don't feel pain or anything like that," Parra said. "I think it's more my timing."

The Rockies are going with their veteran outfielders as regulars. But Parra's defense -- he was a Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalist in left field last year -- makes him viable off the bench for defense should manager Bud Black adjust his lineup. But with touted prospect David Dahl beginning the year at Triple-A Albuquerque, Black sees Parra as an important cog.

Parra's second-inning double off the D-backs' Taylor Clarke in Sunday's Cactus League game was his third of the spring, along with his one home run.

"He missed some time with the hamate injury, but he's a veteran, experienced hitter," Black said. "He'll be fine. He's a good all-around player. He plays defense well and has a good arm. He can come off the bench in a game he does not start and give you a good at-bat."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.

Colorado Rockies, Gerardo Parra