PROVIDENCE — To Ryan Kalish, the time and sweat he’s putting in this offseason has a rewarding vibe surrounding it – the kind that provides the 24-year-old Red Sox outfielder with the sort of reassurance that he’ll 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’s Hospital Thursday morning in an effort to spread holiday cheer to several young patients, Kalish admitted that he’s pain-free and going about his workout business with an eye cast toward February.
“Last year was all rehab; there wasn’t much strength,” said Kalish, who was joined on the caravan by Boston relief pitchers Mark Melancon and Chris Carpenter. “Now (the focus) is all strength, so this is different. It’s just as much strength for my legs as it is rehabbing my shoulder. I already feel like I’m stronger now than I was at the end of my workout schedule last year, so it’s a good feeling.
“We’re getting after it; there’s a little rehab but not too much,” Kalish continued. “I feel better and healthier, and that’s the main thing I need to be right now … just be healthy and ready to play every day.”
Certainly it’s refreshing to hear Kalish have such a positive outlook, considering we’re referencing someone who’s 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, “My body has been through a lot and it might be another year until I feel really good.”
Fast forward to Thursday, when Kalish mentioned he’s received clearance to incorporate baseball-related activities into his regime. He’s scheduled to pick up a bat and start swinging next week, and figures he’ll begin throwing shortly after New Year’s Day.
The other big change stems from Kalish’s 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’s better at this stage to be around a set of trainers and medical personnel that know him best.
“I decided to stay in an effort to get some work done; I need to get healthy,” said Kalish about being Boston-based. “I like the medical staff and everything that’s going on. I’ve been getting a lot of good treatment and I can’t complain at all.”
The long and winding road that was Kalish’s 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’ outfielding corps helped earn him a major-league promotion for the first time since his 2010 debut.
While he’s 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.
“Last 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,” he stated. “I wished I had never had to deal with any of this, but I did and now we’ll see what happens.”
Through the frustration that’s ensued over what’s 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.
“Obviously I hope I can play well enough (during Grapefruit League action) to win a spot on the team, but you just never know,” said Kalish.
One thing Kalish won’t 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 – Torey Lovullo and Arnie Beyeler.
“I like the staff they put together, and I think they’re going to be great for the team,” said Kalish. “I was happy when Arnie (was named Boston’s first base coach). He’s done nothing but help my career in all the facets in the game. I’m excited to give him congrats in person and hopefully play for him.”