Hello, Hanley

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Hello, Hanley

As a Red Sox fan, you learn very early never grow attached to prospects. They're just as likely to end up as the centerpiece in a blockbuster as they are a future staple in the Sox line-up.

Sure, there are a few exceptions. Most recently Will Middlebrooks, then obviously guys like Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedrioa and Jon Lester. But for every one of them there's a Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Hansen, Justin Masterson, Anibal Sanchez, David Pauley, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and many more who get shipped out before ever making a serious impact.

The biggest example of the last 10 years?

None other than Hanley Ramirez.

Hanley was 16 when he signed with the Sox in the summer of 2000, and it wasn't long before he was touted as a future star the Sox most exciting home grown prospect since Nomar. But after only two big league at-bats, he was traded to Florida in exchange for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

Of course, you know this already. You know that Ramirez went on to win the Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Marlins, and became one of the National League's most dynamic players. You know that in his first five years in Florida, Ramirez hit at least .300 with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases every single season. You know that he led the league in runs one year and won a batting title in another. You know he made three All-Star games and won two silver slugger awards.

You also know that he never would have made to Florida if Theo Epstein hadn't taken his sabbatical.

It's one of the worst kept secret in the Sox organization (and that's saying something): Theo never wanted to let Hanley get away. And for that reason not the mention the fact that he turned into such a superstar Ramirez is a guy I've always followed a lot closer than the hundreds of other former Sox prospect floating around the majors.

Even though he's never been known as a terrific guy, I've always been a Hanley Ramirez fan. And on the random occasion when the Sox and Marlins get together, it's always fun to grab a look at what could have been. Lately for Ramirez, that hasn't been much.

A shoulder injury derailed his 2011 (he hit only .243 with 10 homers in 92 games) and this season hasn't been much better. Well, the power number are back (he has 11 homers) but is only hitting .259.

We'll see if he can turn back the clock against the Sox tonight in Miami.

(For his career, Ramirez has played six games against the Sox and has been pretty quiet, hitting only .292 with one home run and one RBI.)

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Kyle Kendrick will end up in rotation eventually

Kyle Kendrick will end up in rotation eventually

The Red Sox rotation appears set before their bullpen does, which is surprising given how many health questions developed with the starters over the course of the spring.

Kyle Kendrick, a minor league free agent signed over the winter, was reassigned on Tuesday -- cut from big league camp and sent to Triple-A Pawtucket. That doesn’t mean he can’t make the Red Sox if something goes wrong with Drew Pomeranz (or anyone else) between now and the regular season. 

But it’s a clear suggestion that the Red Sox have enough confidence in Pomeranz’s health that they see Kendrick beginning the year at Pawtucket.

“Any time you have something invasive, you're always kind of taking a wait-and-see approach,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida about Pomeranz. “I even mentioned to Dave [Dombrowski], I said, 'When's he getting through this,' I said, 'let's not even pay attention to the first three starts. Because he's going to go through some things where he's going to build up. He's going to probably get over some mental hurdles of wondering how's it going to feel, can I turn it loose? The delivery's going to have to be in sync like every other pitcher in spring training.' 

“And you know what? The last couple innings in start 3, it started to click a little bit more regularly for him. No pitcher's ever completely out of the woods, just based on the position, but you know what, he's making satisfactory steps toward the first start of the year.”

Kendrick might have to wait a little bit, but he should be the first man up if the Red Sox need a starting pitcher for more than, say, one spot start. He's to hang around the big league team at least through Thursday, when he has a start against the Nationals, his seventh spring start.

A 32-year-old righty who would make $1 million in a full season in the big leagues, Kendrick scrapped his four-seam heavy approach this year and is going back to the sinker-ball ways that made him successful in his time with the Phillies. He’s had throwing shoulder issues in the past, but has said all spring he’s healthy. That showed with 26 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA in 29 Grapefruit League innings.

He'll be around soon enough if he keeps it up at Triple-A Pawtucket.

The tricky thing with Kendrick is that once he’s on the big league roster, he can’t be sent back down to the minors without passing through waivers, meaning the Red Sox would risk losing him. 

So, if it’s just one spot start that’s needed, a guy like lefty Brian Johnson, who has options and is already on the 40-man roster, probably gets the nod over Kendrick. But any injury that leaves more of an unknown in recovery time, and Kendrick should have his crack.

Outfielder and first baseman Steve Selsky was optioned after Monday’s game. Add in Kendrick’s cut on Tuesday and the Sox have 36 technically remaining in big league camp, 31 from the 40-man roster.

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Kelly's a potential weapon in the Red Sox bullpen

Joe Kelly’s ascent to the eighth inning has been pretty darn rapid.

Tyler Thornburg’s questionable right shoulder and the loss of other relievers elsewhere -- remember Koji Uehera, now of the World Champion Cubs? -- have thrown him into the spotlight.

That doesn’t make Kelly anything close to a certainty, though.

Entering spring training, even Craig Kimbrel, one of the very best closers around, faced some doubt after control flare-ups a year ago.

In Kelly, the Sox have an overpowering righty who couldn’t harness his stuff in the past. Someone who conspired with Clay Buchholz in making the Red Sox rotation look dismal midseason.

Kelly’s ineffectiveness last year, in fact, was one of the reasons they traded for Drew Pomeranz on July 14. And, logically, one of the reasons the Red Sox did not want to subsequently rescind the trade for Pomeranz.

The last start Kelly made with the Red Sox (and possibly in his big-league career) was on June 1 against the Orioles. He allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings and was immediately demoted.

He didn’t make it back to Boston until late July.

The best reasons to believe in Kelly now, in Thornburg’s absence, are straightforward: he was awesome at the end of last year, and he is overpowering.

In an eye-opening September, he held hitters to a .180 average in 14 innings. He gave up one earned run, carrying a 0.64 ERA, struck out 20 and walked just three.

That’s awesome potential.

He’s always had that, if nothing else, though: potential. What’s to say Kelly lives up to it? He might. There’s just not a lot to hang your hat on.

In eight innings this spring, Kelly has as many walks, seven, as he does strikeouts.

“The point we’re trying to stress to him, no one in this game is perfect,” Sox manager John Farrell told reporters Monday, including the Boston Herald. “He doesn’t have to be perfect with every pitch located. He has premium stuff. Trust it, and get ahead in the count a little bit more frequently.”

Early in spring training, Kelly talked about how he was still learning on the job, as you’d expect. That’s going to continue to be the case, and he'll continue to have to prove he's at last arrived.