Four weeks have elapsed since Ryan Kalish underwent surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck.
“At this point honestly, I can’t really tell that anything was really done to my neck,” said Kalish via phone from San Francisco, where the Red Sox outfield prospect is conducting his rehab. “You have post-surgery pain and all that, but that’s totally gone. It just feels like a normal neck.
“My range of motion feels good and I’m not experiencing any pain,” continued Kalish about his present status. “I’m actually rehabbing my shoulder too; everything is connected. I’m just making sure everything as strong and flexible to prevent anything further down the line.”
Thanks to having the corrective procedure done in mid-September, Kalish is relieved that he doesn’t have to adhere to a strict rehab timetable such as the first day he is allowed to pick up a bat or play catch. He can proceed at his own pace and afford to be patient, knowing full well that he doesn’t have to hasten back into things.
“There’s no real rush to move me along without having to worry about right now. Instead the focus is on next year,” said Kalish, noting that if he went under the knife during the season, he would have been staring at a recovery time in the neighborhood of 6-8 weeks. “The (2011) season was a huge disappointment for myself as far as not being able to play at all for much of the season. At the same time, it’s nice to know that I’m not any missing baseball (games).”
Kalish’s lost season stretches back to April 22 at McCoy Stadium when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder while making a diving catch in center field. While he was able to rehab the injury to the point where the pain became manageable, the 23-year-old developed soreness in his neck that further delayed his return to the field.
He did return to play eight games for the Pawtucket Red Sox in August, yet it was clear that Kalish was operating far from full tilt. Manager Arnie Byeler went to Kalish and told him that he was going to be shut down for the rest of the season, which in turn took 2006 draft pick out of the running for a potential September call-up to Boston.
Looking back on a season in which he was limited to 24 total games and a .209 batting average and a .550 OPS in 22 games with the PawSox, Kalish doesn’t feel a need to wonder what could have been had the surgery taken place sooner rather than later.
“It’s hard to look back and you can’t really question anything that happened because surgery is not the first option by any means,” Kalish said. “You try the treatment and at the end of the day, (surgery) wasn’t something that we thought it would come to. It would have been good if there was a clear-cut path to get this done, but there wasn’t.”
With the Red Sox’ blessing, Kalish sought the opinion of Dr. Robert Watkins, a renowned orthopedist whose credentials include serving as a medical consultant for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the University of Southern California athletic program. Watkins recommended a physical therapist to Kalish at Active Care, a sports rehab and training facility based in San Francisco.
“This place has had experience with my type of injury,” said Kalish, who makes his home in New Jersey during the off-season. “It was a win-win situation as far as where I wanted to live and the rehab process.”
Kalish says he checks in with Red Sox officials once a week to provide an update of his status. While participating in winter ball has been ruled out, Kalish remains unsure if he’ll head to Arizona for a session at Athletes’ Performance, a top-of-the-line workout spot that he has frequented the past few off-seasons.
“I have no knowledge of what I’m going to be doing in January,” Kalish said. “Obviously Arizona is always an option because of the place’s ability to get me in great shape, but we’ll see. At this point I’m taking it day by day.”
The Red Sox still regard Kalish, who played 54 games for the parent club in 2010, as a major part of their future – something that has him believing that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
“There’s incentive. You can’t make the major leagues unless you’re healthy,” said Kalish. “That’s all nice to hear, but for me, I’m just concerned about getting on the field. I have to show up (to spring training) and show that I’m healthy. That’s my attitude.”