Minor-League Notes: Ortiz Isn’t the Only Slumping Sox Slugger
|05.20.09 at 10:31 am ET|
A year ago, Lars Anderson seemed bulletproof. He put up tremendous numbers in the hitter’s haven of Single-A Lancaster, and then produced at an even higher level following a promotion to Double-A Portland.
Suddenly there was curiosity about how soon he might land in the majors. Anderson was mentioned as part of the reason why the Sox could comfortably walk away from signing Mark Teixeira this offseason.
In so many ways, those conversations were unfair. Anderson, after all, is still just 21, and had he attended Berkeley, he would be draft eligible for the first time this season. And so the notion that he would not struggle on what has been, to date, a meteoric progression through the Red Sox system seemed flawed.
Back in Double-A, Anderson is confronting his most severe professional struggle. He is hitting .229 with a .315 OBP and .697 OPS for the Sea Dogs. He has struck out 32 times, roughly once in every four plate appearances.
‘He’s been getting a little bit passive at the plate, getting a little overly passive,’ said Sox farm director Mike Hazen.
The Sox were hopeful that he might be on the cusp of breaking out when he hit a pair of homers ‘ one on a changeup, one on a fastball, both described as bombs that he pulled ‘ on Saturday. Since then, however, he is 0-for-8 (albeit with four walks) in his last three games.
‘He’s going to break out of this soon. (The two-homer game) was a good indication,’ said Hazen. ‘He’ll get it. He always has. He’s too good of a player not to. We’re getting ready, hopefully, for one of his epic runs.
‘He went through a little bit of one of these periods last year at Lancaster. He was hitting about .260 at one point in May, then turned on the jets and never looked back.’
KALISH MOVIN’ ON UP
Ryan Kalish was promoted from Single-A Salem to join Anderson in Double-A Portland. Kalish, like Anderson, was a prep star who was considered to be unlikely to turn pro, barring a sizable signing bonus. The Sox drafted him in the ninth round and dropped the necessary coin to convince him to begin his professional career.
Kalish was spectacular for Single-A Lowell in ‘07, hitting .368 with a .471 OBP, .540 slugging and 18 steals before a broken hamate ended his season after 23 games. In his return last year, his numbers were down significantly in both Greenville and Lancaster, but the Sox believed that was largely the result of his inability to follow a normal offseason strength and conditioning program due to the surgery on his hamate.
This year, he demonstrated as much by hitting .304 with a .434 OBP and .504 slugging mark, along with five homers in 115 at-bats with Salem (matching his homer total in 433 at-bats in 2008). That led to the conclusion that his player development track has returned from the injury detour.
‘He’s doing everything that we ask a hitter to do to earn a promotion,’ said Hazen. ‘He’s been in High-A now for almost a full year. We just felt like he needed to be challenged a little more.’
Kalish has started with a struggle in Double-A, going 1-for-17 with a pair of walks.
HAGADONE, FIFE PREPARE FOR RETURNS
Nick Hagadone has been little short of dazzling in his extended spring training appearances as he comes close to concluding his return from Tommy John surgery last June. His fastball has registered as high as 98 mph, he has shown what’s been described as a ‘wipeout slider,’ and he’s been getting swings and misses with his changeup.
He has made three appearances in extended spring training games (of 2, 3 and 3 innings). The Sox are skipping his current turn, but then plan to have him return to make another three-inning appearance and then, perhaps, a four-inning appearance.
If all goes well in those outings, the organization’s current plan is for Hagadone to follow those outings with an assignment to Single-A Greenville in early June. In Greenville, Hagadone will be restricted, in all likelihood, to three- and four-inning outings in an effort to avoid any setbacks in what has been, so far, a very promising recovery.
‘He’s not going to be probably more than a three- to four-inning pitcher this year,’ said Hazen. ‘We’re just not going to push the envelope. It’s not worth it. Everything’s gone so well, the stuff has come back so well, and he’s not going to pitch for us in the big leagues this year. We want to get him into a competitive environment, but we need to do it on his timeframe, physically.’ ‘¦
Right-hander Stephen Fife will throw two innings today (Wednesday) in extended spring training, his first appearance since the team shut him down due to shoulder soreness and weakness in spring training. Barring any setbacks, the Sox’ third-round selection in the 2008 draft (who went 1-1 with a 2.33 ERA in Lowell last year) would be ready to report to Single-A Salem in 15-20 days.
Fife’s issue was similar to the one faced by Daisuke Matsuzaka, requiring a strengthening program.
‘It wasn’t necessarily an injury. It was weakness, soreness,’ said Hazen. ‘Whenever we get that with a young pitcher, we obviously threw the brakes on and decided to push back his season’¦We can make those innings up on the back side if we lost them on the front side. We just want to make sure that the innings we get from him this year will be quality.’’¦
Josh Reddick is likely to start swinging again in roughly the next week. He has been out since straining his oblique at the end of April. At the time of his injury, he was hitting .288 with six homers and a 1.008 OPS for Double-A Portland.
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