BOSTON, Mass. -- It is tough to imagine how 2012 could have gone worse for Anthony Ranaudo. His season started late and ended early due to injuries, and in between was nothing to write home about either. However, speaking recently at the New Stars for Young Stars fundraiser in Boston, the 23-year-old right-hander is optimistic and feeling completely healthy heading into next season.
After achieving relative success in his first season with the Red Sox in A-Ball, Ranaudo strained his groin in spring training heading into 2012 and did not make his first start until May 15. It was anything but smooth sailing once he arrived at Double-A Portland though, as he posted a 6.69 ERA in just nine starts. The former first-round pick gave up exactly as many walks as he had strikeouts, and allowed more hits than he had innings pitched. He made his final start on July 3 before being shut down with shoulder fatigue after tossing just 37 2/3 innings.
"I don't even know if frustrating is the right word," Ranaudo said. "That's just the beginning of how I felt."
Ranaudo began the year as the second-highest ranked prospect in the system on SoxProspects.com, which can be attributed to the significant bonus of $2.55 million he received out of the draft along with the promising results and raw stuff he showed in 2011. He now sits at 17 in the rankings after a nightmare season. It is not out of the question though that he quickly rise back into the top 10 this season if he shows good health and a return to form.
SoxProspects.com scouts who watched many of his Portland starts last season saw inconsistency with his mechanics leading to inconsistent results. Even inning-to-inning he would look different. In the same game his fastball would sit 91-93 mph, touching as high as 95, then in other innings be 89-91. The curveball, which can be a devastating strikeout-pitch for him, would suddenly lose effectiveness. When his stuff lost crispness, our scouts saw him having problems repeating his delivery, including his front side flying open early at times.
The jump from A-Ball to Double-A is among the biggest of a prospect's journey to the majors, so that may be one reason for the decline in Ranaudo’s results. But there was also a regression in his pure stuff due to the mechanical issues, which can be at least partially attributed to the shoulder fatigue he experienced. Also, tall pitchers like the 6-foot-7 Ranaudo can sometimes take longer to develop because longer arms and legs make repetition of mechanics harder. He did not necessarily see this as a major factor though.
"It is what it is and I can't really do anything about [my height], whether it's negative or positive," said the LSU product. "I just try to use my advantage as best as I can. I try to throw downhill strikes and attack the zone that way."
Since injuries derailed his 2012 season and caused him to pitch so few innings, this offseason Ranaudo had the opportunity to throw for Caguas in the Roberto Clemente Baseball League, Puerto Rico’s winter league. The fatigued shoulder felt strong heading into it for him.
"It was a lot of fun," he said on his time in Puerto Rico. "I had a great team out there and a great set-up. I was healthy, my shoulder and arm felt great. I bounced back well and I had a lot of confidence in my stuff. So it was a good trip for me."
The trip seemed far less positive to the casual observer from afar though. He posted a 6.75 ERA and headed home after 9 1/3 innings over four starts because of a re-aggravation of his strained groin. When looking more closely at his numbers, they are skewed by one start in which he gave up six earned runs. He gave up no runs in his other two full starts and finished with seven strikeouts to just two walks.
The injury, which might be a red flag otherwise, is not something that has Ranaudo worrying.
"I kind of re-aggravated my groin at the end, a little bit," he said. "It was not nearly as severe as it was in the spring. I've been doing physical therapy and everything, and learning some things that hopefully can knock it out so it really won't bother me ever again."
Ranaudo is not anticipating getting a late start to spring. He's expecting to follow the Red Sox normal spring program for pitchers and be ready to start this season on time, likely again with the Portland Sea Dogs. He did not hesitate before saying the only goal he's focused on this season is staying healthy.
"Try to make all the starts that they ask me to make," he said, expounding on his 2013 goals. "Let my results dictate how the rest of the season goes as far as where I [pitch]. Hopefully just keep getting better every time I go out there.
"I'm hoping I can put  behind me and just focus on 2013. I learned a lot from 2012, things I can do along my career to keep me healthy and on the field."
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