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Red Sox' Kalish continues to stay positive on comeback trail; St. Raphael alum Chris Iannetta reflects on catching Jered Weaver's no-hitter

May 4, 2012

Chris Iannetta

In the year-plus quest that has taken Ryan Kalish to the far reaches of dealing with injuries and back again, the Red Sox outfield prospect has learned that it’s best to not get his spirits up too much or sink too low. On the subject of looking ahead, i.e. placing a definitive date on when he might return to game action, Kalish prefers to stay in the moment.
When team officials inform Kalish that he’s passed every single checkpoint, only then will he be allowed to vacate the Fort Myers, Fla. premise that’s served as his holding cell for some time now.
Until such approval is granted, Kalish will continue reporting to JetBlue Park on a daily basis, the hope that each session will bring him one step closer to feeling like he did prior to April 22, 2011, the day that started the long and oftentimes strenuous climb back after injuring his left shoulder while attempting to make a diving catch for the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Reached Thursday night, Kalish disclosed that he’s experienced more good days than bad ones recently. For someone who underwent two surgeries over a three-month interval last autumn (one to take care of a bulging disk in his neck while the other addressed a partial tear of the labrum in his shoulder), he’s come to terms that returning to good form wasn’t going to happen overnight. It was going to entail a painstakingly slow process, the idea of gradually restoring range of motion to the tender spots taking priority with maintaining his baseball skills serving as a secondary concern.
“We’re on the way; it’s just a matter of time now before I get to play,” Kalish disclosed. “It’s been a gradual improvement. I haven’t experienced a setback. If anything, I’ve just been getting healthier and that’s a good feeling to have.”
Asked to describe what a typical day at the Red Sox’s spring training complex entails, Kalish says he generally arrives at 7:30 a.m. with things wrapping up around 1 p.m. Each day brings with it a new program that’s tailor made based largely on how the player-in-question feels upon getting out of bed.
“Some days we’re doing some hitting, some throwing. I’m bunting and just trying to stay on top of as much baseball stuff as I can while I’m down here,” Kalish said. “Whether it’s treatment or baseball activity, I go in there with no expectations. I’ve been looking ahead for so long that at this point you’ve just got to go day by day.
“I know (the training staff) has a plan as far as how many swings I’ll take or whether I’ll be hitting in the cage or on the field, stuff like that, but it all depends,” Kalish continued.
For a player who’s endured continuous starts and stops, periods of optimism followed by setbacks that can undoubtedly lead to dismay, Kalish was hardly in a blasé mood when describing the wave of emotions the past 12½ months have brought. If anything, he came across as if he’s in a positive frame of mind, understanding that at 24, he still has plenty of years ahead.
“In the scheme of baseball, it’s probably been the worst year of my life. If you can’t play … I’d rather have a bad season than not be able to play,” he said. “At this point, you just have to have acceptance. If you can accept something, you won’t suffer over it.
“In the beginning I was pretty upset,” Kalish went on. “Right now, everyone is taking the proper steps for me to get back to where I want to be. I’ve accepted that this is where I’m at right now. Hopefully I get the opportunity to help out some team, whether it’s Boston or Pawtucket.”
Pressed on when putting on a Red Sox (or PawSox) uniform might become a reality, Kalish offered, “we’re talking weeks now, not months.” Via text message, Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett denoted “there’s no specific timetable for activation.”
A few games in extended spring training figure to prove the final exam Kalish must take under the hot Florida sun before embarking on a rehab assignment that figures to start in the lower levels of Boston’s farm system.
“We’re on the right track,” stated Kalish, offering optimism that at long last, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is in sight.
For Andrew Miller, Sunday marks the end of his 30-day rehab clock. At that point, the Red Sox will be forced to make a decision that’s hardly simplistic. Boston must either call the lefty pitcher up or attempt to add more time to his rehab, which can be done providing Sox officials can get creative by demonstrating that Miller is not completely over the groin injury that resulted in him starting the season on the disabled list.
For those wondering why Miller cannot simply be added to Pawtucket’s roster, he’s fresh out of options and thus would have to clear waivers.
While the 26-year-old has worked with mixed results while with the PawSox – 14 walks and 23 strikeouts in 11 innings spanning 10 appearances following Friday’s scoreless inning against Toledo – his upside remains undisputed, which he demonstrated with five strikeouts in two innings Wednesday against those same Mud Hens.
“We’ve been working on some stuff to try and quiet his upper body movement,” said PawSox pitching coach Rich Sauveur by phone Friday. “When he has a more compact delivery, the command is much better, which was the case Wednesday.”
Friday marked two weeks since Mark Melancon embarked on a journey to fix the ills that caused him to struggle immensely with Boston. Rebuilding the reliever’s confidence after he had posted a ghastly 49.50 ERA in three appearances with the Red Sox wasn’t so much the burning issue as making sure he could attack the inner half of the plate.
Thus far Melancon has tossed 6 2/3 scoreless frames for the PawSox, striking out 11 while walking no one.
“He’s done exactly what he wanted to do,” said Sauveur. “It was all about executing pitches pretty much. For him it’s about staying down in the zone and locating the ball where he wants it to go, whether it’s up or down, front or back.”
By posting such strong numbers and getting over the phobias that plagued him earlier in the season, Melancon has placed himself on the periphery of rejoining the parent club. For the moment such a maneuver remains on hold, but if baseball teaches us anything, it’s that everything eventually works itself out.
Chris Iannetta earned a little slice of baseball heaven Wednesday as the St. Raphael Academy alum was the man responsible for guiding Jered Weaver through his no-hit crusade against the Minnesota Twins.
“I would say when there were 15 outs remaining, I started to do a countdown in my head,” said Iannetta, in his first season catching with the Los Angeles Angels.
Earlier that night, Iannetta was hit by a pitch, which forced him to play with some discomfort over the final seven innings. With the chance to be part of something special staring him in the face, the 28-year-old focused on making sure Weaver finished the job in grand style.
“When I first got hit, it didn’t hurt that much. A couple innings later, it started swelling up to the point that I couldn’t really swing or throw,” Iannetta said, “but I wasn’t going to have (Weaver) lose anything on my account.”
Iannetta, who was charged two passed balls in the game, was given the day off Thursday, which no doubt gave him more time to soak in what he was a part of the previous night.

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