Kalish finds his sea legs
Outfielder adjusts to Double A game
There are times during pregame introductions when Ryan Kalish is tempted to imitate an elementary school student watching a scary movie. Or, in his words, “I’m, like, covering my eyes.’’ It’s hard to avoid the giant numbers up on the center-field screens that tell a story Kalish isn’t itching to hear.
“It’s really something I’m trying to [avoid],’’ he said. “But every now and then I’ll just catch it. If you catch it like that you can’t get mad at it. But I really try and stay away from it. I haven’t really been paying attention to the numbers too much, which is a good thing for me because the more I look at that stuff, the worse I do.’’
Kalish couldn’t do much worse than his first foray into Double A. After he was called up in May from Salem, Va., the outfielder hit .133 for the month, with eight hits in 60 at-bats. Since then, though, adjustments have been made, nerves have been calmed, and Kalish is up to a far more palatable .245 average, including five hits in his last 12 at-bats.
“It wasn’t really anything mechanically,’’ Kalish said. “It was like a mental thing. I was building everything up, like, ‘Oh, my God! I’m in Double A.’ Most of the fastballs I see now have a little movement on them and stuff. That’s to be expected. I would get up to the plate and be like, ‘All right, I need to get a hit. I need to get a hit.’ Then 0-1, ‘Oh, my God! One more strike it’s 0-2.’
“Now it’s just like I’m trying to see a pitch and hit it hard rather than get a hit. When you think like that the chances of you doing better are a lot better than if I’m going up there putting that pressure on myself. I feel a lot better.’’
Kalish, 21, decided he needed to succeed immediately, which he discovered was a near impossible goal. That’s something the Sox have seen with numerous prospects promoted to Portland in recent seasons. Baseball has returned to being fun for Kalish now that he has realized his coaches and organization have confidence in him.
“I’m a really high goal-oriented person,’’ Kalish said. “I want to strive as fast as possible and think I should have, when I’ve got to just relax because it doesn’t matter right now. You’re young and you just got called up. You’re going to have time to prove yourself and I feel like I wanted to come in here and just get moved up again real quick.’’
He’s concentrating on staying behind the ball, not adding to a pitch’s speed by jumping at it, by drifting toward it. He has learned that Double A pitchers throw hard, but he’s finding he recognizes pitches better. So his walks are up and strikeouts are down. He is getting on base and demonstrating bat control.
“We’ve seen the at-bats slow down on him,’’ said Mike Hazen, Red Sox director of player personnel. “We’re seeing him chase up in the zone less. We’re seeing him square up balls more consistently, those things that happen when players are focused on seeing the ball, as opposed to ‘Oh, my God! I’ve got to get a hit right here,’ or, ‘Oh, my God! I don’t have an extra-base hit in the last 10 days.’
“We’re seeing the consistency develop.’’
Navarro, 21, lost nearly eight weeks this season because of surgery on a broken hamate bone. He returned to hit .319 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 23 games with Salem.
“We still feel like we have a pretty good crop of shortstops,’’ Hazen said, mentioning Oscar Tejeda, Derrik Gibson, Jose Garcia, and Ryan Dent. “It’s hard when you lose a guy at the top because they’re the most prominent.’’
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.