- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has made it no secret that he's looking to add a pair of outfielders to the roster this offseason through either free agency or the trade market.
The Red Sox would like to re-sign veteran Cody Ross, and the club is also serious about signing free agent Torii Hunter. If the Red Sox decide not to trade Jacoby Ellsbury this winter, he'll remain in center field, but Boston still needs to fill the corner positions. Even though Cherington is seeking help outside the organization, there's also help from within.
Ryan Kalish was once thought to be the future in the outfield for the Red Sox, but injuries hampered the prospect's development the past two seasons. Still only 24, Kalish has all the tools to become a full-time outfielder at the big league level. He can run, hit, throw and play exceptional defense at all three outfield positions. Now he only needs to stay healthy.
Kalish said he totally understands why Cherington is looking elsewhere for outfield help.
"Baseball's a business and those guys are awesome," Kalish said. "Obviously, I know Cody well, I've met Torii, and whoever else is out there I try not to pay attention too much. The way I see it, those guys are proven producers and I'm not. My motivation is to become a proven producer."
If Kalish can remain healthy, there's no reason why he wouldn't be in the mix for 2013 and beyond.
"He could be. We'd like to let him surprise us," Cherington said last week at the GM meetings in Indian Wells, Calif. "We know what kind of talent he is. There was a time where he looked like he was right on the cusp of being a part of what we were doing and was sidetracked with health. No reason he can't get back to that if he's in better condition physically, and we hope that's the case.
"No doubt that health issues have hampered him the last couple of years. He hasn't been able to do the things on the field that he's capable of doing, so it's an important offseason for him," said Cherington.
Besides Ross and Hunter, there are other outfield options Cherington & Co. are likely considering. But Kalish remains motivated to make his mark with Boston.
"Ben is going to make his moves, and I completely support them," Kalish said. "Ben's always been really good with me. Shoot, Ben drafted me basically when he saw me play in high school. Any decision they make is fine with me.
"On a personal level, I'm pretty motivated," he added. "I don't know anybody in my position who wouldn't be. I feel like I was pretty close to getting a chance to stick in the big leagues two years ago, and now two years have gone by and I've been fighting my way just to stay on the field. I'm motivated. If I wasn't motivated, I wouldn't have stayed in Boston [this offseason]. I'm plenty motivated, and at the end of the day I feel like if I'm healthy, I can do a lot of things on a baseball field and a lot of things that will help this team win, and that's what I want to do. I'm going to do everything I can to get back out there and help this team win."
Kalish made his major league debut in 2010 and played a total of 53 games for the Red Sox that season. He posted a .252 average with 4 HRs, 24 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. Defensively, he was solid with the glove, playing mostly center field while Ellsbury was on the DL with three separate rib injuries.
But Kalish suffered a shoulder and neck injury early in the 2011 season, which limited him to only 24 games at Triple-A Pawtucket. In September 2011, he had surgery to repair a bulging disc in his neck. Then, two months later, he underwent labrum surgery on his left shoulder.
After those surgeries, Kalish did his due diligence and spoke with many players who had similar procedures. Most told him to expect pain and discomfort. It wasn't the sort of feedback Kalish was hoping to hear, because he wanted to be back on the field as soon as possible.
He spent the early portion of the 2012 season rehabbing, then was activated in June.
Kalish played with his normal bulldog attitude but struggled to produce. He played a total of 36 games, with a .229 average and five RBIs, before he started to feel pain in his shoulder and back toward the end of this summer, and the Sox decided to shut him down.
"I did what I could do to my fullest potential this past season," Kalish said. "Obviously, it was disappointing, but just the way my body felt day in and day out, I just didn't really find it suitable for production."
Unlike most Red Sox players, Kalish decided to stay in Boston for the offseason to be near team doctors while also working out at Fenway to prepare for the 2013 season.
"It's been a rough two years," Kalish said. "I feel like I'm completely accepting of everything that has gone down as far as my health goes. Realistically, you can get ready in a lot of cities and in a lot of different places, as tons of big league guys do, but I just feel that in my position and where I've been at the last two years and with everything that has gone on, I still see in front of me opportunity.
"I still think if I can get myself completely healthy and get on the field, then I can do what I've always wanted to and what I've shown glimpses of doing. I feel like with the organization, and myself, [staying in Boston this offseason] is going to give me the best opportunity to do all those things. There's such good medical care here, and at the end of the day it was kind of like I'll be underneath everybody's nose and they'll see everything I'm doing rather than kind of wondering what I would be doing out west."
Lately, Kalish has been feeling good and focusing on strength and conditioning.
"Just with the few weeks' break, which I started obviously during the season when I was shut down, it's just been really good to focus on the body," he said. "When you're focusing on your baseball stuff, which is obviously the most important, you need to set a strong foundation, and I don't think I ever had a foundation strongly set once I got hurt back at the beginning of 2011 because from there on it was all rehab, surgery and more rehab.
He said he has no lingering issues from the season and is focused on making his presence felt at spring training.
"I'm not thinking relatively healthy, I'm thinking fully healthy," he said with confidence. "I honestly believe that. That's my ultimate goal, to be fully healthy and to be ready to compete. If I get strong enough and I get the proper care, which is happening, then we're going to find out realistically where everything is at."
He added: "My body is already beginning to build up strength and it's only Week 3. So we're talking about another 10 weeks of strength training, and eventually the baseball aspects will go in there, and I feel by the end of all this I'll be in a good, strong place to set me up for a healthy feeling once spring training rolls around. I'm confident it will all work out."
Red Sox outfielder Ryan Kalish knows he has something to prove.