Ranaudo gets to face his childhood hero

BOSTON -- One of Anthony Ranaudo’s fondest wishes comes true Friday night.

This goes beyond making his major-league debut for the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Ranaudo grew up in Jackson, N.J., in a family of Yankee fans. He was 7 years old when he went to his first big-league baseball game at Yankee Stadium. It was the Yankees’ home opener, they were playing Oakland, and it was the first time he laid eyes on his baseball hero, Derek Jeter.

Seventeen years later, the 24-year-old Ranaudo said in spring training that Jeter remains his favorite Yankee. How cool it would be, he said back in Fort Myers, if he got the chance to face his idol in his final season.

"Jeter was my guy all the way," Ranaudo said. "It's kind of weird, thinking I might get a chance to face him in his last year."

On Friday night, the second batter Ranaudo is scheduled to face in his big-league career is Derek Jeter. Presumably, he’ll wait until after the game to ask for an autograph.

Ranaudo was born in Freehold, the Jersey shore town more famously known as the place in which Bruce Springsteen grew up and 30 minutes from where Sox manager John Farrell was raised. Ranaudo went to high school at St. Rose in another Jersey town, Belmar.

"I spent a lot of time in Belmar growing up," said Farrell, the son of a lobster fisherman. "That's where my dad kept his boat."

Ranaudo becomes the ninth pitcher to make a start for the Sox this season, and third pitcher to make his big-league debut as a starter with the Sox in the last four seasons, joining Kyle Weiland (2011) and Allen Webster (2013). Brandon Workman made his debut as a reliever and Rubby De La Rosa had already debuted with the Dodgers.

In 21 starts this season for Triple-A Pawtucket, Ranaudo was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA, striking out 99 and walking 49 in 119 1/3 innings.

In his last six starts with the PawSox, the 6-foot-7, 230-pound Ranaudo was 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA, holding opponents to a .195 average in that span.

“The one thing he’s done seemingly all year while in Pawtucket is he’s gotten a high percentage of his outs with fastballs," Farrell said Friday. “He’s gotten some swing and misses. He’s been able to tighten up his breaking ball a little more than a year ago.

“I think that’s just part of his overall progression. The ability to throw the breaking ball behind in the count has been more readily available to him and he has pitched with a lot of confidence throughout the course of the year.”