FORT MYERS, Fla. After the major league players who didnt go on Sundays trip to Dunedin to face the Blue Jays finished taking batting practice on the Jet Blue Park field, Ryan Kalish stepped in. Triple-A Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler fed the pitching machine while hitting coach Gerald Perry looked on.
But Kalish wasnt taking swings like the other hitters had done before him. He was working on bunting. Its one of the things he can do for now, while he recovers from off-season surgeries on his neck, in September, and left, throwing, shoulder, in November.
Hed like to swing away, though, for what it would signify.
Oh, of course, sure, Kalish said. But this is just something I can do right now and occupy my mind and get better at something in my game.
Kalish has been swinging, but it has been at a ball on a tee.
Weve only swung about four times, so far, he said. But were getting there. Its just a slow process but its necessary to be that way. Patience is the best thing right now.
Actually Im not really holding back when swinging. Just free. Swinging is starting to feel better. My swing is definitely coming along a little bit. Obviously, its been seven months. At this point its just getting the feel, seeing how it feels and thats it. So were getting there.
Kalish, who turns 24 on Wednesday, made his big league debut but was limited to just 24 minor league games last season, without a big league appearance, limited by injuries. It was hoped he would be in the Sox outfield mix this season, but is not expected to be ready before June.
Kalish, though, is not focusing on dates or deadlines.
Its not up to me, and I dont really ask, he said. I just do what they say day by day because thats just the way I feel, like its better to look at one day at a time rather than knowing what you have going one ahead. Im sure if I wanted to know I could. But id rather go day by day and take it step by step rather than what Ive been doing, looking ahead. it doesnt work too well.
Kalish is satisfied with the progress of his rehab. But hes also looking forward to its end.
Things are getting better for sure. Thats a definite. So Im happy, he said.
I just want to play. its been too long. its been so long. Thats where Im at mentally. I just want to play.
Every once in a while he notices a twinge in his neck and shoulder. Thats to be expected. But compared to last season, its much better.
Its great, he said. Every days a new day and sometimes I feel it. But thats just to be expected at this point. Sometimes you have a little kink here or a little kink there. But its just part of the daily routine. its a grind, but were getting there.
I run around, catch, throw. Im throwing on a program. Im doing everything. Its just a matter of time before we build up.
His throwing program is slow, he said. Hes throwing from about 60 feet now.
Its good, though, he said. And every day I throw it feels a little bit better, a little bit stronger. So, starting to get my arm back which is nice to know that I think eventually Ill have my full strength back.
Kalish, who had a very strong outfield arm before the injury, is confident that will return when hes back to full health. But, if it doesnt . . .
Ill deal with it, he said. Its just part of life. Thats it. So if it happens, it happens. But I think over time -- I dont know what my arm will be like this year. Ive heard from people that have had this its not always that year. Youll probably have the year after when you feel really good. So well see. Just take it step by step. I just want to play.
One of the people hes talked to about his situation is Jason Varitek.
He told me that last season, just as far as things go, and maybe people that hes known, Kalish said. We were together and we were talking about. And he goes, Hey, you might feel like this. But he was just giving me some friendly words of advice.
Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland has had it. Hes told me, My arm hurt for a year. But obviously I think his surgery was a little bit more complex than mine. So Im just going to keep working through it and if it hurts, it hurts.
Its just working out scar tissue. But its one of those things. Like I threw earlier today and felt it during it a little. But its just scar tissue and now I cant tell at all that I even threw. So its fine.
Kalish has been here since the beginning of the year. He hasnt received his release from Fort Myers yet. When camp breaks in a little over a week, hell stay behind, continuing his rehab process. He knows its just a matter of time before he heads north.
Thatll come, he said. l hope itll be sooner rather than later.