PAWTUCKET, RI After appearing in 53 big-league games last season, hitting .252 with four home runs, including two grand slams, and 24 RBI, perhaps starting this season in Triple-A would be a disappointment.
Not so, says Ryan Kalish.
No, not at all, said Kalish, who turned 23 on March 28. I knew in the offseason as soon as they signed Carl Crawford that was the way it was going to be. And I think its good because theres no pressure. You know youre going to go to Triple-A and keep working on my game. I think, obviously, if I was the Red Sox, Id have signed Carl, too, because hes just such a good player and brings a lot to your team. So, no, there was no disappointment at all. Just come in here, get my work in and if they need me up there, thats my goal, is to be ready to help them win.
Kalish appeared in 20 Grapefruit League games for the Red Sox this spring, playing all three outfield positions and serving as the designated hitter. Hitting .235 with just two extra-base hits, both doubles, and one RBI, he wasnt entirely happy with his spring performance. But, he also knows that will not determine his future.
Spring training was great, he said. Just a lot of excitement. Crawford coming in and all the outfielders, just such a help and always teaching me stuff and helping me learn. That was great. I dont think I played as well as I wanted to, but thats spring training. But now the games are here and were here to win and I think that really helps everybody out. So, yeah, spring training was great.
Getting called to the big leagues on July 31, Kalish quickly showed that he was not intimidated by his surroundings, starting in left field and going 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in his debut that day. Those last few months in the big leagues can only help him.
It was definitely huge because when I get back, hopefully if I get back, it shouldnt be as big of an adjustment, he said. Youre going to already know a lot of the guys. They already are there to help me out, and Ill just continue to grow.
First-year Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler has watched Kalishs maturation. He also managed Kalish in Portland over parts of the last two seasons.
Hes a hard-working kid, Beyeler said. He plays the game right. Hes come a long way, maturity-wise. He used to let the game come to him, but now he gets after it every day. Hes consistent. Doesnt let things bother him like they used to. I think that shows in his consistency, especially when he went up to the big leagues and got the opportunity last year. Everybody in the clubhouse loved him up there last year because hes consistent every day. All he cares about is winning. He just wants to help the team and hes been that way throughout the minor leagues the last few years.
Beyeler has seen the difference those 53 big-league games have had on Kalish.
I think not in just his game. His games his game, Beyeler said. I think more so just his emotional consistency of not letting stuff bother him, the little things that could tend to wear a lot of guys out when theyre young. It seems like when those guys go up to the big leagues and come back they understand that its not all about the numbers. You can kind of see the forest through the trees a little bit more. Theyre going to come and get guys down here that fit into roles they need, are good in the clubhouse, and care about the team wining. Its not necessarily the hottest guy at the time. So when guys kind of start to see that a little bit and worry about themselves instead of worrying about the numbers, its funny how things kind of work out for them a lot better. But it takes a long time.
But I think all of us are that way. In the grand scheme of things you just got to do what you do and things work out. Its tough with these guys on the way up to sometimes talk to them about things like that, the process over the performance. When they start seeing and really believing in the process and how things work and quit worrying about the performance, then the process usually takes care of the performance.
For Kalish, while getting back to the big leagues will always be the ultimate goal, for now its in the background.
Thats off the table, he said. Just play, play hard down here, and continue to develop. And I think keeping that winning attitude down here will help us all when we get up there. But theres no goal on that, because if you do I think it kind of throws your game off if you dont get somewhere, if you dont hit a certain average, get a certain number of home runs. At the end of the year if you play hard and work hard and play to win, I think a lot of that stuff will take care of itself.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen