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Washington Nationals’ Gerardo Parra eyes a return ... this season and in 2022

Not only does the veteran want to play this month, he told Federal Baseball he hopes to continue his career in 2022 …

MLB: Washington Nationals at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH – The first pitch was more than three hours away, but Gerardo Parra was on the pristine, green outfield grass in short right field here Saturday afternoon at PNC Park.

On a 78-degree afternoon, with several dozen flagbearers getting ready for a special 9-11 presentation, Parra worked with members of the strength and conditioning staff of the Nationals with a goal of getting back to the active roster.

“I feel better; I feel better every day,” Parra, 34, told Federal Baseball, before heading into the clubhouse before the Saturday night game against the Pirates.

“I have a little inflammation. I hope to get back as soon as I can.”

“Like I said, I am working hard every day,” he added. “We shall see; I am trying to do everything” with a mixture of agility drills plus hitting off the tee.

“Every day I feel better. Hopefully, I will be back soon,” the first baseman/outfielder said. “I come out early every day. I have more time to recover. Every day, I feel more strong.”

Parra not only wants to return before the regular season ends – he hopes to play again in the majors in 2022.

“I want to play; I want to play next year, but we will see,” Parra said Saturday. “We will see what happens. I feel great; my body feels great. I want to play one more year.”

Would he play overseas again?

“I want to stay in the majors. We will see what happens. But I want to play one more year,” he said.

Parra was placed on the Injured List Sept. 5 with right knee inflammation.

Parra, of course, was a key figure on and off the field as the Nationals made their run to a World Series title in 2019. His “Baby Shark” walkup music became a rallying cry for many fans.

The native of Venezuela broke into the majors with Arizona in 2009 and had a career-high 14 homers in 2015 as he split time with Baltimore and Milwaukee.

He hit .309 with 10 homers with Colorado in 2017.

Parra hit .250 with eight homers and 42 RBIs in just 89 games for Washington in 2019, including a key grand slam at Los Angeles against the Dodgers.

In 2020, he played overseas in Japan before returning to the Nationals this year as he was signed as a free agent in February by general manager Mike Rizzo and his staff.

This season, Parra is hitting .232 in 95 at-bats with the Nationals, with two homers.

With several new faces and younger players on the roster after a flurry of July trades, Parra welcomes the chance to be a mentor.

“There is a lot of talent here. Guys are working hard every day. I try to help the young guys get better,” he said.