Detroit – No sense sugarcoating it, the past six months have amounted to a wasted opportunity for Tigers third base prospect Isaac Paredes.
And through no fault of his own.
In the 11 months since his season ended at Double-A Erie – where he batted .282, hit 13 home runs, knocked in 66 runs and jumped to No. 5 on the Tigers’ prospect list (per MLBPipeline.com) – he missed most of spring training in Lakeland with a sore right shoulder, contracted the COVID-19 virus during the shutdown and has just this week been cleared to report to camp at Comerica Park.
Instead of perhaps showcasing his development and putting himself in position to play a role with the big-league club this summer, he had to wait and recover, missing invaluable reps and experience. Oh, and in the meantime, the Tigers drafted three third basemen, including Spencer Torkelson with the first overall pick in the draft.
Fate can be cruel.
“It’s pretty hard,” Paredes said through Tigers’ interpreter Carlos Guillen Saturday. “We have a lot of players, a lot of quality players who are very good. And there are too many players with a lot of experience in the majors. So it’s pretty hard.
“But you never know. Hopefully I will have a chance.”
For sure he will have a chance. He’s still just 21. But he will have to make up for lost time in a somewhat sub-optimal environment – daily live batting practice sessions and simulated games with the Tigers’ taxi squad at Toledo’s Fifth Third Field.
“He’s missed a lot of time,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re going to let him ease back into this thing. He needs to get back into baseball shape, so we don’t expect him to do too much here.”
Especially not with the season starting on Friday. Paredes won’t likely see any true competitive game action until the fall, where he will likely again play in the Arizona Fall League.
“For sure it motivates me, but I don’t think too much about it,” Paredes said. “I’m just trying to work day by day and be wherever they want me to be and wait for an opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a Major League player.”
Paredes is a bull of a young man – powerfully built at 5-11 and 225 pounds. And at 21 years of age, he doesn’t exactly fit the profile of most virus victims. Which is why it took him so much by surprise when he started feeling ill in Mexico.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I tested positive to COVID-19, but thank God I am already negative. I want to take this opportunity to tell everyone to take care of yourself and do all the protocols so everyone can stay healthy and we can get better.
“It was in Mexico, I started feeling some symptoms, but in the United States, all the symptoms were gone.”
If he had his druthers, Paredes would step into the box now – either in the last remaining intrasquad games or in one of the two exhibition games scheduled in Cincinnati next Tuesday and Wednesday.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I feel I am ready. I was working out in Mexico. I took live BP and I feel I am ready to play.”
Gardenhire said, barring any other injuries, he's pretty much set the Tigers' 30-man active roster. But that list is not for public consumption yet.
"We're taking a bunch of extra people to Cincinnati for the exhibition games, so you guys (media) are screwed," he said, chuckling. "You won't know anything. We still have a couple of days left here, and that is why it's tough to announce. But we pretty much got it to where we need it."
The Tigers will play exhibition games against the Reds Tuesday and Wednesday before opening the season with a three-game, weekend series at Great American Ballpark. Teams are required to submit their 30-man rosters by noon Thursday.
Injuries have answered some of the questions. Center fielder Derek Hill was making a bid to win an extra outfielder spot before he badly bruised a kneecap making a diving catch.
"Hill still has inflammation under the kneecap," Gardenhire said. "He's not ready to get out there and fly all over the place. We have to let it calm down before he can get back out there."
Outfielder Travis Demeritte will also likely start the season on the taxi squad. He's missed most of camp with groin and quad soreness.
Center fielder JaCoby Jones (oblique) was back at practice Sunday, doing all the outfield work and taking swings in live batting practice against Matthew Boyd.
Left-handed starter Daniel Norris also remains on the injured list, still not cleared from COVID-19 protocol. Even if he showed up Monday, it's hard to imagine he could be ready to pitch competitively by Friday.
Boyd on Mize
Boyd stood behind the cage Sunday, between innings of his live batting practice session, to watch Tigers rookie Casey Mize and came away quite impressed.
"I've played catch with him and stuff, but I hadn't seen him pitch from that angle before," he said. "He has some filthy stuff."
n two innings, Mize threw 25 pitches, 21 for strikes. He struck out four of the eight hitters he faced, the only smudge was an opposite-field single by Eric Haase.