|The startling return of Ryan Kalish||06.17.12 at 11:06 am ET|
It wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly.
A major league source confirmed that Ryan Kalish, who has played 15 games in the minors this year after missing the better part of 13 months, will be called up to the Red Sox today, with Ryan Sweeney heading to the disabled list. (The Kalish call-up was reported first by Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. The decision to place Sweeney on the DL was first reported by the Boston Globe.) Almost no one could have forecast such a rapid march through the minors.
Two injuries that ultimately defied rehab and required surgery — both to repair a bulging disc in his neck and to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder — prevented him from playing at full speed since mid-April when he finally began a rehab assignment late last month in High-A Salem. And so Kalish’s performance this year has exceeded any reasonable expectations of what he might be able to do.
He’s put up big numbers in three minor league stops, hitting .345 with a .449 OBP, .655 slugging mark and 1.104 OPS, along with five homers and four steals in 15 games. His 11 walks in 69 plate appearances have been particularly impressive, given that players often deal with rust after lengthy layoffs. The power, meanwhile, has been almost startling, suggesting that despite the downtime, his pitch recognition has been excellent, permitting him to identify pitches he can drive and unload.
“He swung the bat in extended [spring training], but he hadn’t really swung the bat in a year, so I think there was some feeling out with his swing, just getting used to tracking pitches and getting into game speed,” farm director Ben Crockett said recently. “As he’s gone to the affiliates, he’s certainly been a lot more comfortable at the plate of late.
“It’s early in his return. Hopefully, at the end of this year, wherever that leads, we can talk about the significance of the performance and comeback,” added Crockett. “The biggest thing is just his ability to have quality at-bats and have a pretty good feel for the zone and with his swing after being off for a while. … The power is probably a little more surprising [than the patience and walks], coming back at this rate. Any time a guy is hitting multiple home runs in a couple days, I don’t think you’re expecting that, no matter who the player or the health of the player. We’ve been happy with the progress he’s made, he’s feeling good and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
And now, Kalish’s return will reach a new level, as he attempts to build on his extremely promising big league start in 2010, when he hit .252/.305/.405/.710 with four homers and 10 steals (in 11 attempts) over 53 games, a performance in which he showed the ability to impact the game with his bat, glove and legs. The Red Sox had hoped that he could return to the majors last year, believing that he was a player capable of impacting the pennant race, thus explaining the decision to try to rehab his injuries before ultimately concluding that he needed surgery (first on the neck in September, then on the shoulder in December). While that hope did not materialize, Kalish resumed his prospect path over the last few weeks, resulting in his call-up on Sunday.
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