BOSTON – When the Red Sox sent 4/5 of their Opening Day rotation packing in a matter of days before Thursday’s trade deadline – with just one starting pitcher coming back in return -- it was obvious young pitchers would get their chance, out of necessity, to show the team what they can do.
Righthander Anthony Ranaudo was the first.
The kid who was born in Freehold, NJ, -- just as Bruce Springsteen was -- and grew up a Yankees fan started Friday night at Fenway Park against the Bronx Bombers.
“I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a lot of emotion against the Yankees, who I watched growing up,” Ranaudo said. “At 7:10, I had to focus on the fact that I had to face them and try to beat them. I think I did a good job with that, not worrying about who was in the box and executing my pitches.”
As you’d expect, his favorite player growing up was Derek Jeter. His first major league strikeout: Derek Jeter.
“That's going to be part of my life for the rest of my life. It's pretty awesome.,” said Ranaudo, who got the ball from that strikeout as a memento.
“Now I’m pitching against him so he’s no longer my favorite player. [But] it's awesome to compete against him and what he stands for and his career. Pretty cool to be a part of that.”
He retired his now-former favorite player all three times he faced him, before watching Jeter hit a first-pitch home run off Junichi Tazawa in the eighth inning. But the Jersey boy, with his parents Sharon and Angelo watching from the Fenway stands, bested his former-favorite team in his big league debut to earn his first major league win, as the Sox beat the Yankees, 4-3.
He went six innings, giving up two runs on four hits and four walks with two strikeouts and a home run. There is still work to be done, of course – of the four walks he allowed, three were to batters leading off an inning, with one eventually scoring – but it was a promising start for the 6-foor-7 right-hander.
“I just tried to pound the zone,” said Ranaudo, who threw 91 pitches, 53 for strikes. [Catcher David Ross] did a great job calling for pitches down in the zone.”
With the win, Ranaudo wrote his name in the Sox history book. He is the first Sox pitcher to throw at least six innings while allowing two or fewer runs in a major league debut since Justin Masterson on April 24, 2008. He became the first Sox starting pitcher to win his major league debut since Felix Doubront on June 18, 2010. He is the first Sox starting pitcher to win his major league debut against the Yankees since Vaughn Eshelman on May 2, 1995, and the first to do so at Fenway since Mike Garman on Sept. 22, 1969.
Ranaudo, who will be 25 on September 9, was the Sox first-round (39th overall) pick in 2010 out of Louisiana State. He was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA in 21 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket this season. In five of his last six starts with the PawSox he had allowed one or no run, going 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA, holding opponents to a .190 batting average, allowing a WHIP of 0,95 in that stretch. In his last three starts he had allowed a total of two earned runs over 17 2/3 innings, for a 1.02 ERA.
“I've made a lot of progress,” Ranaudo said of his season. “I can go six, seven, eight innings and I'm able to be efficient with my pitches and command the zone. I made some mistakes with four walks, but I learned that the major league strike zone is tighter and I have to adjust to that.”
As well as he pitched in his debut, he will return to Pawtucket to make room on the roster for right-hander Joe Kelly, who was acquired on Thursday from the Cardinals.
“That part isn’t up to me, “ Ranaudo said. “All I can do is every time I get the ball, go out there and compete and do the things I do well and focus.”