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Minor League notebook

At low level, Ranaudo deserving high marks

With an expensive roadblock in Boston, Lars Anderson is catching attention in Pawtucket. With an expensive roadblock in Boston, Lars Anderson is catching attention in Pawtucket. (File/Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 20, 2011

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The Red Sox are comfortable with the idea of challenging their better prospects by putting them at a higher level to see how they respond.

But with 21-year-old righthander Anthony Ranaudo, the decision was to be a bit conservative and have the 2010 supplemental first-round pick start his professional career with low Single A Greenville.

Ranaudo did not agree to terms on his $2.55 million contract until right at the deadline last August — too late to start pitching. That led to his assignment to Greenville instead of Salem, the more advanced Single A team.

“I think it has been good for me,’’ said Ranaudo, who is 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA after eight starts. “It had been a long time since I pitched, and this is a good place to get my feet wet. I’m learning a lot.’’

In college at LSU, Ranaudo pitched once a week and was expected to throw up to 125 pitches. Now he starts every five days and is on a pitch count. He is working on his curve and changeup instead of relying on his above-average fastball.

“He’s been really good,’’ said vice president of player development Mike Hazen. “Anthony has taken to the routine and worked well on his pitch mix. You have to remember, this is really his first taste of professional baseball.’’

Ranaudo also is doing well physically. He dropped to the Red Sox at 39th in part because of concerns about his elbow. But those issues have vanished.

“This is the best I have felt since my sophomore season,’’ he said. “There is no pain at all. I feel like myself. It’s unbelievable. I feel 100 percent.’’

The task now is building arm strength. Ranaudo has seen his velocity dip as he adjusts to the five-day schedule. He also had gone about nine months without pitching competitively. Before his first start for Greenville April 9, Ranaudo’s last game was in the Cape Cod League last July.

“My body is still getting used to everything,’’ he said. “It’s a lot different in college in that regard. But I feel like I’m getting there and my velocity is getting more consistent and I’m flashing bigger numbers.’’

There also has been adversity. He lasted 1 2/3 innings against Asheville April 30, giving up six runs. That same team touched him for five runs over 2 2/3 innings two starts later May 11.

“Statistically, it was pretty tough, but I learned a lot,’’ Ranaudo said. “I need to control the damage better when that happens, just step off the mound and get my composure back.

“I plan on being in this game a long time and I know those games are going to happen. I need to learn how to handle them.’’

Ranaudo also is enjoying the baseball lifestyle.

“It’s just like college, only no classes to worry about,’’ he said. “I like the traveling and meeting new people. It’s fun coming to the park every day and learning the game. This is what I always wanted.’’

If Ranaudo starts to overmatch hitters in the South Atlantic League, the Red Sox could promote him to Salem. By late next season, he could be ready for the majors.

“I want to get there and help the team as quickly as possible,’’ he said. “But I understand I’m 21 and I’m in a good organization with a lot of great players. I’m ready for whatever challenge they want to give me.’’

Save, then loss Greenville outfielder Bryce Brentz carried a 25-game hitting streak into Monday’s game against Charleston. He was 0 for 3 with a walk going into the ninth inning and needed two teammates to get on for him to get another at-bat. It looked like a lost cause after two quick outs. But Felix Sanchez singled and Heiker Meneses tripled. Brentz had his chance and crushed the first pitch he saw over the 420-foot mark in center. The Drive lost, 10-6, but the crowd at Fluor Field had a thrill. Brentz, alas, went 0 for 5 the next day. It was the first game all season he did not reach base. The 2010 supplemental first-round draft pick (36th overall) was hitting .363 through Wednesday with a 1.070 OPS.

Power turns on With Adrian Gonzalez locked in at first base for years to come with the Red Sox, Pawtucket first baseman Lars Anderson is perhaps playing to impress the 29 other teams. If so, he’s doing well. The 23-year-old was hitting .273 with a .405 on-base percentage through his first 38 games. On Wednesday, he homered in both ends of a doubleheader against Columbus, his first home runs of the season.

Pawtucket’s finest The Big Brothers of Rhode Island presented PawSox president Mike Tamburro with the Robert “Cy’’ Killian Humanitarian Award last night. Tamburro was recognized for his support for the agency’s work; he has hosted 22 Big Brother Nights at McCoy Stadium . . . Pawtucket radio broadcaster Steve Hyder was named the Rhode Island Co-Sportscaster of the Year by the National Association of Sportscasters and Sportswriters. He is a four-time winner . . . Hall of Famer Jim Rice will represent the Red Sox at the MLB Draft, which starts June 6 in Secaucus, N.J.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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