SARASOTA, Fla. — Jason Pridie will be the first to admit his mistake.
The 29-year-old outfielder has spent most of the past six years on the cusp of finding a home in the big leagues — his life-long dream just within reach.
But around this time last season, Pridie’s very public miscue had him worried that he might have handed himself a career-crippling sentence into baseball purgatory.
Last March, Pridie was fighting for a roster spot in the Oakland Athletics’ spring training camp when he received a 50-game suspension for a second failed test for a recreational drug — a “drug of habit” as Major League Baseball calls it. First failed tests are kept confidential.
The suspension had him wondering about his baseball future.
“It can be taken away that quick,” said Pridie. “When it’s an injury it’s different. If its something you could have prevented, then it hurts a little more because you’re sitting there thinking you could have done something about it.”
Now, Pridie is in Baltimore Orioles camp as a non-roster invitee. Signed to a minor league deal in November, this is Pridie’s seventh major league spring training camp, and he is hoping to stick in an organization that has successfully offered opportunities to discarded players under executive vice president Dan Duquette.
“We thought he was worth taking a shot at,” Duquette said. “People deserve second chances, right? Where I come from, people deserve second chances.”
When Pridie, a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2002, failed the test last year, he was coming off his most extensive big league season. He played in 101 games for the New York Mets in 2011, and even though the Mets released him that offseason, the A’s signed him to a minor league deal.
But take that 2011 season out and he hasn’t played more than 10 games in any major league season, spending most of the last six years playing in the Triple-A International League. He owns a career .276/.317/.428 line in Triple-A.
In mid-June — once the suspension ended and the A’s released Pridie — he signed a minor league deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Around that time, his son, Knox, was born.
Pridie soon found himself in Philadelphia after Jim Thome was traded to the Orioles, presenting a need for a left-handed bat. His stay lasted just nine games before he was back in Class AAA, where he finished the season.
Pridie was concerned that last year’s positive drug test would follow him into the offseason, but the Orioles — looking for outfield depth — saw a player with speed and a good arm who could play all three outfield positions, and they offered him a minor league contract quickly. Last season, Pridie hit .298 with a .356 on-base percentage and .455 slugging percentage at Class AAA.
Here in Orioles camp, Pridie is one of 13 players on the spring training roster with outfield experience, so he’s a long shot to make the 25-man opening day roster. Still, Pridie has already impressed some in the organization.
“He already has,” Manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s a calmness to him. He’s got a plan. He’s got a good approach. You can see he’s a confident hitter. He’s not out here trying to show [off] and get everybody’s attention as far as trying to pull every ball as far as he can.”
— Baltimore Sun