Advertisement

After bouncing around, Jimmy Paredes gets his chance with the Orioles

Regardless of whether Jimmy Paredes fades or maintains after a scorching start at the plate this season, the switch-hitter has found his share of believers inside the Orioles clubhouse.

Since coming off the disabled list from a lower back strain just over two weeks ago, the 26-year-old Paredes (pronounced puh-RAY-diss) has become a fixture in the No. 2 spot in the Orioles batting order as the team's designated hitter, providing some punch to a lineup missing three regular starters.

Advertisement

In 51 at-bats, Paredes is hitting .353 with a .365 on-base and .667 slugging percentage, nine extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple and three home runs) and 10 RBIs. He has hit safely in 10 of 12 starts and earned quite the complimentary nickname.

"We call him Babe Ruth in here," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "He's just having good at-bats. That's what it boils down to. He's getting good pitches to hit and he's not missing them. He's not just up there swinging at everything. He's getting himself in good counts and when you get yourself in a good count, it's a little easier to hit. It's still really hard to hit, but it's a little easier when you find yourself 2-0, 3-1."

The only thing that might be able to slow down Paredes is the Orioles' schedule. They open a six-game road trip in New York with two interleague games against the Mets at Citi Field before four games against the first-place Yankees.

Playing in a National League park against the Mets, the Orioles will lose their designated hitter, and Paredes — who has struggled defensively — likely won't play in the field.

The Orioles' success has been built on defense, but they learned during spring training that they had to find a place for Paredes' bat. Manager Buck Showalter likes to have flexibility with the designated hitter spot, and Paredes is currently clogging it. But Showalter said that's not a problem, yet — not while Paredes is producing.

For Paredes, it's the opportunity he has always waited for.

"That's what I've been looking for all my career, being in the lineup every day," Paredes said. "So I'm enjoying that. … They give me an opportunity, but I never feel like I take it [for granted]. I'm hungry. I know I have to compete every day. I have to compete to stay on the team. There are going to be changes. I never feel comfortable about it. I feel like I still have to compete. I come in here hungry to compete and play hard and do my job to help my team win."

Still, how is it that the Orioles are one of five organizations Paredes played for over his professional career, and he has never been able to stick elsewhere?

Talent is something Paredes has always had, but stability is not. It can be debated whether he had previously been given just opportunity to live up to his promise.

"Right now I feel like I have the chance to show I can play this game at this level," Paredes said. "I'm going to focus on doing my job. Before I went through a lot of confusing things. When I was called up in 2011, I did a very good job. They send me up and down. I changed positions. I was confused about where I was supposed to be. I've had a lot of moving around."

Showalter said that sometimes players suddenly peak in their mid-to-late 20s after going through some adversity. Paredes fits that mold perfectly.

"You love to see guys like him get something back for what they put into it," Showalter said. "I think the word to describe Jimmy is that he's sincere. … He just wants to get it done. … He doesn't waste one at-bat, one opportunity, one infield session, one BP time. I think once you've kind of been through the yo-yoing around different organizations, I'd like to think he kind of likes it here."

Paredes was a rising prospect in the lower levels of the Yankees' system before he was part of a trade that brought slugger Lance Berkman from the Astros to New York at the 2010 trade deadline. A year later, he was anointed a key piece of the Astros youth movement, and in the final months of the 2011 season, he was given the starting third base job at the age of 22.

But he began the year in Triple-A after being told to shift to second base, a position without a future for Paredes. He wasn't going to unseat second baseman Jose Altuve, the 2014 American League batting champ, who at the time was growing into one of the game's top young players.

Advertisement

Over the next two seasons, Paredes mashed Triple-A pitching — he hit .306 over those two years — but the Astros couldn't find a place for him. He didn't give them much reason to either, hitting .191 in 72 big-league games over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. They tried him at second, third and all three outfield spots. Paredes was placed on waivers by the Astros after the 2013 season.

The Marlins claimed him, then the Orioles, then the Royals.

The Orioles re-acquired Paredes from the Royals in late July for cash and he joined the major league team when rosters expanded in September and hit .302 with four doubles, two home runs, eight RBIs and two stolen bases in just 55 plate appearances.

And in spring training, Paredes was the team's best hitter, batting .364/.368/.636 with 10 extra-base hits (seven doubles, one triple and two homers) in 24 games before he injured his back in the final days of camp.

Paredes' defense is still a work in progress. He has struggled at third base and the Orioles are baffled why because he's constantly working to get better — even getting his vision checked. He made one start at second base following the injury to starter Jonathan Schoop, but the club decided to experiment with Steve Pearce — who has never played second — instead of place Paredes there.

"I have to make sure that I keep working hard on my defense because we have a couple players out and when they come back there could be some moving around," Paredes said. "When those guys come back, J.J. [Hardy], [Matt] Wieters, Schoopy, there's going to be a lot of movement. Maybe he tries to use me in a couple different positions. Every day I do out there and work hard on my defense so that when they call on me I'm ready. I'm ready for that."

Showalter said Paredes' defensive issues are not from a lack of effort.

"He knows we like what he brings and he works very hard on any weaknesses he might have," Showalter said. "He's one of those guys who you can put your head on the pillow with because there's never from lack or focus or concentration or want-to. He lets it rip every night and you like that about him … There's nothing that produces confidence more for players than knowing somebody has confidence in them and likes them."

Paredes received that boost of confidence in a conversation with Showalter right before coming off the DL. He met with the Orioles manager before he was going to begin a minor league rehab assignment. At the time, the Orioles didn't have a roster spot for him, but that quickly changed the next day, when Schoop suffered a right knee injury.

But in Showalter's office, Paredes had one question for him. Paredes — who had never made an Opening Day roster in his career — wanted to know if he would have made the team out of camp had he not gotten hurt.

Advertisement

"I have been hoping to be on the Opening Day [roster] one day," Paredes said. "I felt like I had a good spring and then when I got injured, I asked myself, 'What is going on?' I thought I did the job in spring training. I was thinking, 'OK maybe I made the team.'

"Nobody told me, but I knew when I had a chance to ask him, I was going to ask him. I wanted to hear that. I just wanted to hear him say, 'Jimmy, you made the team.'"

Advertisement
Advertisement