BOSTON -- After earning his first win in his major league debut, Red Sox rookie pitcher Anthony Ranaudo returned to the clubhouse to find a baseball in his locker.
It was a game ball. It was the ball he recorded his first big league strikeout with against his childhood idol, Derek Jeter. Ranaudo fanned Jeter, who looked at strike three in the top of the third inning of Friday’s 4-3 Red Sox win over the New York Yankees at Fenway Park.
Ranaudo worked a solid six innings and allowed two runs on four hits, with four walks and two strikeouts. He tossed 91 pitches, 53 for strikes. The 24-year-old right-hander was poised, looked confident and was even smiling in the dugout between innings.
Ranaudo was raised in Jackson, New Jersey, and was a big fan of the Yankees. So, it was understandable that his emotions were running high on Friday -- not only because he was making his big league debut for the Red Sox, but also because it was against the Yankees.
"I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a lot of emotions going on out there, but it’s nice to have that one under my belt right now, and next time I take the ball, whenever that is, I have that confidence I have my debut underneath me and I can focus on getting guys out now,” he said.
“It was the New York Yankees, a team I watched growing up. But when it was 7:10 and the first pitch was coming I had to focus on [the fact] that those guys are competing against me and I’m trying to win the game. So I think I did a good job with that and not really worrying about who’s in the box, and executing my pitches.”
He did more than execute. He gave the new-look Red Sox a fresh start after the club dismantled the core of its pitching staff at the trade deadline on Thursday, sending ace Jon Lester to Oakland, John Lackey to St. Louis and reliever Andrew Miller to Baltimore.
While the Red Sox will be retooling their pitching staff for the remainder of this season and beyond, Ranaudo got off to a great start in his attempt to prove himself.
“I thought he did a good job keeping the game under control. There were a number of innings where the leadoff hitter would get on base and he found a way to navigate through three walks to lead some innings off,” said Red Sox manager John Farrell. “I thought he threw the ball downhill well, kept the ball out of the middle of the plate for the most part.”
Ranaudo became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw at least six innings while allowing two runs or fewer in a debut since Justin Masterson did the same on April 24, 2008, against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Ranaudo also became the first Boston starter to win his major league debut since Felix Doubront accomplished the feat on June 18, 2010. Also, Ranaudo is the first Red Sox pitcher to start and win his debut against the Yankees since Vaughn Eshelman on May 2, 1995.
“I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well, so I felt pretty confident going out there,” said Ranaudo, who was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. “Obviously, this is a different game, a different stage, but I still felt pretty confident. I relied heavily on my fastball. I didn’t have the best command of all my pitches tonight, but I relied heavily on my fastball.”
In 21 starts for the PawSox this season, he was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA, with 99 strikeouts and 49 walks in 119⅓ innings. In his last six starts before his promotion to Boston, he was 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA, while holding opponents to a .195 average.
“I think I’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “I think I understand the importance of being able to go six, seven, eight innings and be able to be efficient with my pitches and command the zone. I think I learned the hard way today with some of the walks that the big league strike zone is a little tighter than the minor league strike zone. It’s an adjustment I’ll have to make and hopefully I’ll do that.”
For his efforts, Ranaudo gets a trip back to Pawtucket. He knew that was part of the deal, and this will give him a chance to hone his skills until the next time he gets the call from Boston.
“That part is not up to me,” he said. “All I can do is whenever they give me the ball, go out there and compete and try to do the things I do well and compete the best I can. I’ll focus on the things I can control and that’s all I’m going to do.”
On Friday, his parents, Angelo and Sharon, were in attendance and his mother was elated, especially after her son struck out Jeter.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” he said. “I’m happy, but I know they might be happier than I am with everything, so it’s going to be pretty cool to get out of here and be able to go eat some food and catch up with them and talk about this.”
As far as striking out Jeter, it quickly became a priceless memory for Ranaudo.
"That was pretty cool,” he said. “That’s something that’s going to be part of my life for the rest of my life. To have my first strikeout be Derek Jeter is pretty awesome.
“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."
The Jeter strikeout ball wasn’t the only pearl he received from his teammates on Friday. As Ranaudo was preparing to leave the clubhouse to join his family, a member of the Sox’s Japanese PR staff pulled the rookie pitcher aside and handed him another game ball. It was the ball Red Sox closer Koji Uehara recorded his 22nd save with -- a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning.
“Koji wanted you to have this,” said interpreter C.J. Matsumoto.
“Wow. Thank you,” Ranaudo said.