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A difficult day in the education of Ryan Kalish

09.09.12 at 6:30 pm ET
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Ryan Kalish is one of the better athletes in the Red Sox organization. He was a star quarterback in high school in New Jersey, and had he fulfilled his two-sport scholarship at the University of Virginia, there was a good chance he would have played in the secondary for the Cavaliers. The 24-year-old talks frequently about his desire to be an instinctual player, learning from players like Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury who trust their athleticism on the field and permit it to impact the game, particularly on the bases.

But while working towards that status, there are mistakes that occur along the way, and Sunday’s 4-3 Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays offered two of the glaring variety. Kalish, batting leadoff on Sunday, singled to lead off the game and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, but then made a mistake in trying to advance from second to third on a grounder right at third baseman Brett Lawrie. Lawrie tagged Kalish and fired to first for an inning-ending double play.

“The play was right in front of him,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “Obviously if he throws him out at first, he’€™s still in scoring position at second.”

Kalish reached again in the fifth, eliciting a two-out walk. However, he was picked off at first by catcher Jeff Mathis.

“He just got a little nonchalant I guess. It was a really good throw by Mathis,” said Valentine. “You know, he hasn’€™t played a lot. That’€™s why he is playing, so he can learn. Those are learning situations.”

Kalish acknowledged that he had to use such moments as learning experiences that he can use to get better. Still, that did not mean that he was anything short of self-skewering in reflecting on a day on which he made a pair of outs on the bases.

“That’s the way you have to treat it, as a learning play. I’m pretty tough on myself in a good way. I need to learn from it, because that’s a huge thing — I want to be an aggressive baserunner, but I also want to be smarter, said Kalish. “I just need to make better reads, man. Bottom line. Bad baseball plays. Bad for the team. That’s the bottom line.”

Kalish rarely ran into outs in his first taste of the majors in 2010. He was successful in 10 of 11 stolen base attempts that year, and in 54 total games, he made a total of four outs on the base (one on a caught stealing, one on a pickoff, two while trying to advance on balls in play). This year, in 32 games, he has matched that total, having been thrown out on steal attempts twice (in five attempts), getting picked off once and being thrown out one additional time while trying to advance a base.

It has been a frustrating stretch for the outfielder as he tries to make an impact even in a year when his ongoing health woes have diminished what he can do on the field.

“I’ve been making mistakes on the bases for a long time. That’s a part of the game. Maybe a little more this year, if you put all the playing time together, maybe. Especially up here, I feel like I’m trying to do too much,” said Kalish. “I don’t have excuses. I’m trying to clean up that part of it. I’m just going to keep working.”

While Kalish’s two times on the bases were rendered meaningless by the fact that he ran into outs, he is showing glimpses of improved at-bats over the past few games. He’s 4-for-8 with a walk in five contests this month. Still, while Kalish described it as “satisfying” to have some improved results at the plate (with his average ticking up from .202 to .228 and his OPS going from .483 to .534 in that span), ultimately, he found little solace to be taken in the day.

“It feels good to make improvements,” quoth Kalish. “But the bottom line is if I get on base, I need to do better.”

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