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Ryan Kalish walked through the clubhouse in Seattle earlier this week with two bags of ice wrapped around his shoulders and a large brace around his right wrist.
The 24-year-old Red Sox outfielder seems to spend more time in the trainer’s room than he does on the field, part of his continuing recovery from neck and shoulder surgeries done last year.
“There are times I feel like an old man,” he said.
Kalish’s goal is to change that feeling once the season ends and regain the athletic ability that made him one of the organization’s top prospects.
“This is my chance to get back to the old me,” he said Wednesday. “I feel weak right now. It’s tough.”
Kalish played in 53 games for the Sox in 2010, collecting 16 extra-base hits and stealing 10 bases. His defense was stellar, too. Decision-makers in the organization pegged Kalish as being the right fielder of the future once he finished his development at Triple A Pawtucket.
But that path hit several obstacles. Kalish injured his left shoulder diving for a ball in April 2011 and played in only 24 minor league games. He later developed a bulging disk in his neck that required surgery in September.
Then, in November, it was decided he would have shoulder surgery.
“All 2011, I’m trying to figure out how to get on the field and how to play,” Kalish said. “Then at the end of that it was, ‘Never mind, you need surgery,’ and I end up having two. So the whole offseason you spend recovering.”
Kalish has essentially lost two years of his career. With his shoulder still weak, he hit a modest .265 in the minors this season with five home runs. He has played in 30 games for the Sox and hit .216.
“It’s a real fine line,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “When he feels great, I don’t mind playing him. When he feels less than great, I feel guilty playing him.
“He’s really concerned with getting something done properly to get him physically at the point he wants to be.”
Kalish plans on taking only a few days off after the season before starting on the road to rebuilding his body. He will start with his shoulders and go from there. The neck surgery and the surgery on his left shoulder led to weakness in his right shoulder.
“They need a break to recover, the whole area, as well as an offseason workout plan,” Kalish said. “For me, it’s got a lot to do with the workouts. Baseball is always part of offseason workouts, the hitting and running. I think it’ll pay off, those four months.”
Kalish is tentatively planning to work out at a facility in the San Francisco area with other professional athletes.
Kalish will start hitting in late November or early December with the idea of coming to spring training the same player he was before the injuries hit.
“I didn’t know it would be like this,” he said. “But it’s part of life. I haven’t been healthy in a long time.”
For the rest of this season, Kalish hopes to contribute in some way.
“I’ll continue to grind and help out as much as I can,” he said. “But I’m really excited about getting some rest and recovery and a strong workout plan going.”
The Sox start a six-game homestand Friday against John Farrell and the last-place Toronto Blue Jays. Then the Yankees come in for three. The Sox have 24 games remaining — including 13 on the road and 18 against teams competing for a playoff spot. “I’d like us to play together and show that we’ve got a lot of pride,” Valentine said. “I think we do and I think we’ll grind it out. Be a spoiler on the way, that would be fun, too.”
Loney is helping
As the Sox pile up losses, first baseman James Loney has been effective. He is hitting .306 with one home run, four RBIs, and a .741 OPS in 11 games since coming over from the Dodgers Aug. 25. Adrian Gonzalez has hit .260 for the Dodgers with one home run, 10 RBIs, and a .701 OPS. The Dodgers are 5-7 since the trade, the Red Sox 3-9 . . . Cody Ross is hitting .325 in his last 30 games with 14 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs. His 20 home runs are four shy of his career high set in 2009 with the Marlins.