ST. PETERSBURG — Isaac Paredes entered 2023 hoping to match his total of 20 home runs from last season. When he got to 20 in late July, he shifted his sights to a new goal of 30.
Paredes made good progress, reaching 27 by the end of August. He got No. 28 on Sept. 6 and No. 29 on Sept. 8.
Then he got hit on the right hand by a pitch on Sept. 9, sidelining him for two games and appearing to limit him for a few more. Then Sunday, he connected on No. 30.
“I’m very happy that it finally came,” Paredes said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “I know when these milestones come, you get a little pressure on yourself. But I’m glad that I was able to finally accomplish it.”
Paredes joined franchise icon Evan Longoria as the only primary third basemen in franchise history to reach the 30-homer mark.
Paredes, acquired from Detroit in a spring 2022 trade, has increased his team-leading RBI total to 95 in his first full big-league season. With five more over the five remaining regular-season games, he will become the fifth player in franchise history to have a 30-100 season, joining Fred McGriff (1999), Aubrey Huff (2003), Carlos Pena (2007-09) and Longoria (2009).
“I know he’s been grinding through it here a little bit and we’ve given him enough chatter about it, but I’m really happy for him,” manager Kevin Cash said. “What an incredible season. We’ve talked a lot about Yandy (Diaz’s) season. Paredes is in line with him with just consistency — 30 home runs, 95 RBIs pushing 100.
“There’s one other third baseman that I know that’s done that, and (Paredes is) putting himself in a pretty good category.”
With the American League East title all but out of reach, expect the Rays to be cautious this week using three key players who were sidelined during the weekend.
Leftfielder Randy Arozarena left Friday’s game with right quad tightness and — though said to be doing better — hasn’t played since. Reliever Robert Stephenson, who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 19, woke up Friday with a stiff neck and said he hopes to be available Tuesday.
Diaz, the Rays’ first baseman and team MVP, left Sunday’s game after two innings due to right hamstring tightness. Cash said “there will be no urgency to play him if he feels anything.”
Outfielder Luke Raley, who is sidelined with a cervical strain, is eligible to come off the injured list for the Oct. 1 regular-season finale and hopes to be ready for the postseason. Centerfielder Jose Siri, who sustained a non-displaced fracture of his right hand on Sept. 11, also hopes to be available for the playoffs.
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Tickets for potential Wild Card Series and Division Series home games will go on sale Wednesday at 10 a.m. … The team will stage several “Postseason Pop-Up Parties” with free team swag this weekend and begin giving out free yard signs Saturday at locations on both sides of Tampa Bay. … Among the more creative opportunities to show support, the team and Poison Ivy Ink are providing free Rays tattoos to 50 fans on Monday starting at 2 p.m. at its St. Petersburg and Temple Terrace locations. … See raysbaseball.com/postseason for more details on all the postseason-related events.
Zach Eflin starts Tuesday, seeking his American League-leading 16th win and tuning up for a likely playoff-opening start on Oct. 3. Eflin ranks seventh in the AL with a 3.44 ERA and 10th with 182 strikeouts. … The Rays’ 95 wins match the fourth most in franchise history; by winning out, they can match the 2021 team record of 100. For what it’s worth, the 2020 team went 40-20 in the pandemic-abbreviated season, a pace for 108 wins.
• • •
Sign up for the Sports Today newsletter to get daily updates on the Bucs, Rays, Lightning and college football across Florida.