Now that his arm is as healthy as his fun-loving approach to life and baseball, Enoli Paredes seemingly has it all going for him.
One minute, he’s pounding out a beat on the bottom of water jug or spraying teammates with water from a squirt gun as the leave the field on a hot summer day.
The next, he’s serving up a change-up that leaves a muttering opposing hitter pounding his bat into the dirt on his way back to the dugout.
There are times when the Quad-Cities pitcher has been known to swipe the oversized hat of the team mascot and try it on for size, moments followed shortly by consistent work on the mound that mirrors the success the River Bandits pitching staff has enjoyed throughout the Midwest League season.
The 22-year-old right-hander had a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings end last week, but the longest collection of zeros put up by any Quad-Cities pitcher this season illustrates how effective Paredes has been.
"It’s all good," Paredes said. "When you’re getting your fastball over, you’re getting your breaking balls over and you’re getting outs, good things are going to happen."
These days, good things are happening for the native of El Limon, Dominican Republic, who is as determined to graduate this year from the English courses the Astros provide their foreign players as he is to ring up another strikeout.
And in between, Paredes expects to have a little fun as he creates a lively workplace environment in the River Bandits dugout.
"That is what baseball is about," Paredes said. "It is a game. It is supposed to be fun. We get to have fun and play a game every day. I like to bring some energy to it and get everybody going and excited."
Quad-Cities manager Mickey Storey welcomes that energy.
"He shows up with it every single day, and it creates a good atmosphere for guys to work in and be around," Storey said. "Baseball is a long season, and you need guys like Enoli to keep things lively. Championship clubs always seem to have those guys, guys who love the game and love to have fun with it and then go out and give it what they have. I really believe it helps everybody compete."
Paredes appreciates that aspect of it as much as anybody.
An injury ended his season with Quad-Cities a year ago.
He pitched in eight games for the River Bandits last season, going 1-3 with 2.11 ERA and earning a spot on the roster for the Midwest League All-Star Game before an elbow injury ended his season following an outing on May 31.
He underwent surgery, worked through his rehab and then went back to work.
Since signing with the Astros in 2015, Paredes said he typically takes one week off at the end of the season and then resumes preparations designed to get him ready for the following year.
"My father always taught me that if you are not working to get better, you will not get better," Paredes said. "It is my job to be ready to go when I am needed and that is what I work to do."
Paredes’ father played in the Expos organization, reaching the rookie-league level as an outfielder.
"He taught me the game and how much work it takes to be good at it," Paredes said. "I owe a lot to him for that."
Coming off of the injury, Paredes’ return to competition has been at a measured pace, and he has been told he will likely work about 75 innings during the regular season.
He joined Quad-Cities from extended spring training on May 1, and his first eight outings this season were in relief roles.
Paredes has started in four of his six games since and has a 2-3 record with two saves and a 1.50 ERA for the River Bandits.
Overall in 48 innings of work, he has allowed only eight earned runs while striking out 58 batters and walking 23.
Paredes has found success attacking the zone, blending his fastball with a change-up that has improved throughout his second full-season assignment in the Astros organization.
"When we’ve put the ball in Enoli’s hands, he’s doing good things with it," Storey said. "The big thing is he’s getting a chance to get back into a normal routine. From starting out for us in the pen to being given a chance to start now, he’s making the most of his innings."
Paredes expects that to continue.
"I feel comfortable again on the mound, and I want to help us win another championship here," Paredes said. "We have younger guys in here now, but they are capable of doing good things, and we are improving. It was great to win a championship last year. I want to celebrate that again."