PROVIDENCE ‚ÄĒ To Ryan Kalish, the time and sweat he‚Äôs putting in this offseason has a rewarding vibe surrounding it ‚Äď the kind that provides the 24-year-old Red Sox outfielder with the sort of reassurance that he‚Äôll be ready to answer the bell come spring training.
From purely a physical standpoint, the way Kalish feels pales in comparison to the rehab realm he found himself orbiting a year ago at this time. Appearing at Hasbro Children‚Äôs Hospital Thursday morning in an effort to spread holiday cheer to several young patients, Kalish admitted that he‚Äôs pain-free and going about his workout business with an eye cast toward February.
‚ÄúLast year was all rehab; there wasn‚Äôt much strength,‚ÄĚ said Kalish, who was joined on the caravan by Boston relief pitchers Mark Melancon and Chris Carpenter. ‚ÄúNow (the focus) is all strength, so this is different. It‚Äôs just as much strength for my legs as it is rehabbing my shoulder. I already feel like I‚Äôm stronger now than I was at the end of my workout schedule last year, so it‚Äôs a good feeling.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre getting after it; there‚Äôs a little rehab but not too much,‚ÄĚ Kalish continued. ‚ÄúI feel better and healthier, and that‚Äôs the main thing I need to be right now ‚Ä¶ just be healthy and ready to play every day.‚ÄĚ
Certainly it‚Äôs refreshing to hear Kalish have such a positive outlook, considering we‚Äôre referencing someone who‚Äôs faced numerous obstacles the past two seasons, the result of shoulder and neck surgeries that wound up limiting him to 93 total games over than span. Standing in the home dugout at McCoy Stadium last July, Kalish touched upon his long road back, saying, ‚ÄúMy body has been through a lot and it might be another year until I feel really good.‚ÄĚ
Fast forward to Thursday, when Kalish mentioned he‚Äôs received clearance to incorporate baseball-related activities into his regime. He‚Äôs scheduled to pick up a bat and start swinging next week, and figures he‚Äôll begin throwing shortly after New Year‚Äôs Day.
The other big change stems from Kalish‚Äôs training locale. A year ago, he spent time under the care of a physical therapist at Active Care, a sports rehab and training facility based in San Francisco. Nowadays, this prized prospect uses Boston as his offseason address, believing that it‚Äôs better at this stage to be around a set of trainers and medical personnel that know him best.
‚ÄúI decided to stay in an effort to get some work done; I need to get healthy,‚ÄĚ said Kalish about being Boston-based. ‚ÄúI like the medical staff and everything that‚Äôs going on. I‚Äôve been getting a lot of good treatment and I can‚Äôt complain at all.‚ÄĚ
The long and winding road that was Kalish‚Äôs 2012 campaign featured brief flashes of his pre-surgery self along with periodic shutdowns that re-affirmed that additional time and mending was needed.
In a nine-game stretch at Pawtucket in early June, Kalish hit .378 with four home runs while slugging at a .757 clip. Such numbers coupled with injuries riddling the Red Sox‚Äô outfielding corps helped earn him a major-league promotion for the first time since his 2010 debut.
While he‚Äôs not one to complain or beg out of the lineup, Kalish grinded out as best he possibly could. In 36 games with Boston, he batted just .229 with a .272 on-base percentage and .260 slugging mark. He managed three extra base hits in 96 at-bats before being shut down with a week left in the regular season.
‚ÄúLast year I never expected [that Kalish would still be dealing with the health complications first sustained when he made a diving catch at McCoy Stadium on April 21, 2011], but I was more prepared than I honestly wanted to be,‚ÄĚ he stated. ‚ÄúI wished I had never had to deal with any of this, but I did and now we‚Äôll see what happens.‚ÄĚ
Through the frustration that‚Äôs ensued over what‚Äôs been chalked up to as two lost seasons in his career, the Red Sox continue to believe that the athletic and hard-charging player is a valuable piece moving forward. As far as 2013 goes, it will be interesting to see how the organization handles Kalish during spring training, in terms of taking off the reins and allowing him to compete for an outfield job.
‚ÄúObviously I hope I can play well enough (during Grapefruit League action) to win a spot on the team, but you just never know,‚ÄĚ said Kalish.
One thing Kalish won‚Äôt have to do is worry about making a good first impression, not on a Red Sox coaching staff that includes two men who managed him in Pawtucket ‚Äď Torey Lovullo and Arnie Beyeler.
‚ÄúI like the staff they put together, and I think they‚Äôre going to be great for the team,‚ÄĚ said Kalish. ‚ÄúI was happy when Arnie (was named Boston‚Äôs first base coach). He‚Äôs done nothing but help my career in all the facets in the game. I‚Äôm excited to give him congrats in person and hopefully play for him.‚ÄĚ