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Sunday, April 6, 2014
Kalish glad to play role in victory

By Sahadev Sharma
Special to ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Ryan Kalish says he lives like every day may be his last. With his parents watching in the Wrigley stands, Kalish made sure Sunday was a good one for him and the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs' offense has sputtered early in the season, especially with men on base, but Kalish quickly put the team at ease by driving a run-scoring triple off the wall in right-center field in the first inning. Kalish drove in two more with a double in the sixth and had two walks for good measure as the Cubs went on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies 8-3.

Ryan Kalish
Ryan Kalish had a big day for the Cubs in a victory over the Phillies on Sunday at Wrigley Field.
Kalish, who was making only his second start of the season, was asked if that's what he called making the most of an opportunity.

"I call it making the most of helping my team win," Kalish said. "Every day I just come in and I'm just ready for whatever's thrown my way. Especially with everything I've been through, I don't really care, I just want to give it my all when I'm given the chance."

Before this season, Kalish hadn't played in a major league game since September 2012. After having recurring back and neck issues stemming from a collision with an outfield wall in April 2011, Kalish underwent cervical fusion surgery and missed the 2013 season.

Once a well-thought of prospect in the Boston Red Sox system, Kalish was an afterthought by many heading into spring training with the Cubs. But after proving he was healthy and productive, he earned his way onto the Opening Day roster.

"It's been awesome, I've enjoyed every single day," Kalish said of making the team out of spring. "I'm trying to live my life like every day could be your last mentality. Especially my story, it's just the way I have to live and the way I think we all should live. We're all really blessed to be here in the major leagues, a lot of people aren't as fortunate to have that opportunity. I'm just trying to do what I can with it."

Kalish also flashed the leather, going to the wall to make a catch on a long drive from Ryan Howard, and making a nice snag on another Howard liner to end the game.

"I love the outfield, I'm comfortable in any position at any time, any park, you just have to know what kind of wall you're dealing with. I'm not going full-speed into this one here, guys, I'm just going to keep it real," Kalish said with a smile of the soon-to-be ivy-covered brick wall at Wrigley Field. "I sat out way too long; you gotta pick your spots."

While his defense was solid, it was his and the Cubs' ability to finally put runs on the board that was the key to victory. The Cubs entered the game 4-for-40 with runners in scoring position, but went 4-for-7 on Sunday. In Saturday's 2-0 loss, the Cubs managed 10 hits, but only one extra-base hit and one walk. They outdid both those numbers in only the first inning Sunday, ending the day with seven walks and three extra-base hits.

"We put some good swings on some pitches that were handleable for our hitters," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "Fortunately, for us, they ended up finding some gaps. They've strung together some good at-bats over the course of the last five or six days, we just haven't had a lot to show for it. Today we happened to have some balls find some holes and we took advantage of it."

With the Cubs starting staff delivering a 1.93 ERA and some bright spots in the bullpen (primarily the unscored-upon trio of Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm and Pedro Strop), the Cubs would love it if the offense could follow suit.

"Offense is always contagious," Kalish said. "I've done a lot of watching and I've seen it. Last year I really studied the game and you see, when teams get the bats going and everyone's in it together. This team, I know we haven't gotten off to the best start, but in this clubhouse everyone's really close for such a short time. And once you get the bats going, it's really fun."