Detroit Tigers third baseman Isaac Paredes didn’t know how to find the team’s charter airplane. He arrived too early Sunday, stumbled upon someone that could speak Spanish and was told he had to wait.
Unsure of what to do next, he decided to reach out to Casey Mize, the second of three prospects preparing to make an MLB debut this week in Chicago.
Because, why not?
“In the end, Casey was the one who told me what to do,” Paredes, 21, said through team interpreter Carlos Guillen. “And he was the one who opened the door for me.”
Paredes made his debut Monday against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, driving in the Tigers’ only two runs in a 7-2 loss. A chaotically invigorating two days in his life, beginning with a call from his agent, concluded with his lifelong dream accomplished.
He finished 1-for-4 with two RBIs, and his debut featured the start of a new era that continues with left-hander Tarik Skubal on Tuesday and righty Casey Mize on Wednesday.
“This kid knows how to play,” manager Ron Gardenhire said Monday. “He’s played a lot of games. … For being (21) years old, pretty mature kid. And I don’t think he had any fear tonight at all.”
Still, Paredes wasn’t satisfied.
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Gardenhire penciled him in as the starter at third base and slotted him No. 8 in the batting order, sandwiched between catcher Austin Romine and left fielder Victor Reyes.
But Paredes didn’t find out on his own, or from Gardenhire, that he was among the starters in just his first day with the organization’s top team. That’s because he was so nervous that he forgot to look at the lineup card in the clubhouse.
“Back at my locker, I checked my cell phone,” he said. “It was my wife. She texted me a screenshot of the lineup, and in the end, it was her who told me.”
Trailing 3-0 with the bases loaded in the fourth inning, Paredes gave the Tigers a chance against left-hander Gio Gonzalez, a 13-year MLB veteran. He put a 91 mph fastball into the top-left corner of the strike zone, and the prospect turned on it for a single to left field.
Paredes trotted into first base while Miguel Cabrera and Jonathan Schoop dashed home, cutting the Tigers’ deficit to one run.
“I was pretty nervous,” Paredes said. “My first at-bat, I just wanted to step on the plate and know what it feels (like) to be in the batter’s box in a major-league field. I was very nervous and wanted to know what was going on, So the first at-bat, I couldn’t do what I wanted (fielder’s choice groundout), but in the second, fortunately, I was more comfortable.”
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His third at-bat included a 97 mph sinker at the top of the strike zone from reliever Codi Heuer. He almost put it in the seats for his first big-league home run. However, it carried just foul, and the plate appearance ended in a groundout on an 88 mph slider.
But with 40 homers in 424 minor-league games and seven more in 104 Mexican Pacific Winter League contests, there’s little doubt Paredes will send the baseball over the fence soon.
Before the game, utilityman Harold Castro, designed hitter Miguel Cabrera and third base coach Ramon Santiago told him to act like his debut was just another game in Mexico, Of course, Paredes didn’t believe that — this is the big-leagues. Yet their words of advice calmed him down.
“He’s played a lot of games in his native country down in Mexico against some talented pitchers that know how to spin the ball,” Gardenhire said, “so he’s not overwhelmed by any means being out there.”
Paredes’ only blemish came in the fifth inning when he took a routine ground ball too casually, bounced it in the dirt in front of first baseman Jeimer Candelario and ended up with an error.
“But other than that,” Gardenhire said, “he actually played pretty good. Got a great set of hands.”
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Despite his first MLB appearance, first big-league hit on a two-run single and his dreams coming to fruition, Paredes’ debut wasn’t exactly everything he hoped for.
Because the Tigers didn’t win.
“The individual stuff was secondary to the main goal, which is winning the game,” Paredes said. “So it wasn’t as I expected.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.