PORTLAND – Ryan Kalish walked toward the Portland Sea Dogs’ clubhouse after batting practice Friday and looked around.
There was no Lars Anderson to joke with.
“Lars and I are friends, so it’s weird having him go,” Kalish said, “but it’s awesome for him.”
Anderson, 22, became the first to enter the promotion pipeline this season when he was summoned to Triple-A Pawtucket, becoming the PawSox’s regular first baseman.
Anderson figured to be on a path to Pawtucket last year but experienced a well-publicized down season. He bounced back well, batting .355 in April with five home runs and a 1.085 OPS.
“Lars has learned so much. I’ve been around him more than anybody. I see how much different of a person he is this year,” Kalish said. “I really think he’s always been a big leaguer, and he really believes it now.
“Some of the stuff he’s gone through is going to help me right now with what I’m doing.”
Kalish, 22, may be the next everyday player to get a ticket to Rhode Island, but he currently is in a bit of a slump, batting .224 with four home runs.
It’s not like the slump Kalish endured when he was called up to Portland last year, when he hit .130 through three weeks, but Kalish knows he can improve.
“I’m a competitor. I’m frustrated. I want to do better. I want to get out of here, too. That’s the common goal,” Kalish said.
“I struggled a little bit last year and that really has helped me.”
It seems to be a common theme among Red Sox prospects. When they learn how to deal with failure and regain their confidence, good things happen.
Kalish ended up batting .271 in 103 games for Portland and got an invitation to major league spring training this year. Baseball America ranked him as Boston’s No. 5 prospect.
He is hoping to learn from his experiences, and those of his friend.
“When things weren’t going well, Lars would find the positives,” Kalish said. “He’s just going to take off.”
And Kalish, with his smooth stroke, speed and solid fielding, could be next.
T.J. LARGE COULD be the first pitcher to reach Pawtucket, which would actually be a return trip.
Large, 26, earned a promotion to Triple-A last year after recording a 1.08 ERA for the Sea Dogs. He pitched 22 games for Pawtucket and began this season on the Triple-A roster.
But Pawtucket had too many pitchers — including Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boof Bonser and Alan Embree — and Large was placed on the disabled list.
“Just had to wait my turn,” Large said. “I threw a lot of bullpens. The communication (with the Red Sox) was really good.”
The PawSox staff has thinned a little, but with Scott Atchison down from Boston, there was still no room for Large, so the Red Sox sent him back to Double-A.
“I don’t really have a problem with it,” Large said. “It could be worse. I could be sitting on my couch watching these guys play. I just take it as it is.
“I’m going to pitch as well as I can. It’s not like I’m going to walk around with my head down and be mad. Go out there and throw strikes.”
BEFORE STEPHEN FIFE started Friday night for the Sea Dogs, he spent Thursday in Pawtucket, taking in the game with a friend.
Fife and outfielder Ryan Westmoreland watched the game from the owner’s box. Westmoreland, 20, was considered Boston’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America before he underwent brain surgery last March for a “cavernous malformation,” also described as an abnormality of small blood vessels.
Fife, 23, met Westmoreland last year in extended spring training.
“He’s kind of like my little brother,” Fife said. “He’s a guy I really care about.”
When Westmoreland was undergoing rehab in Boston last month, Fife visited him. Westmoreland was recently discharged from the rehab facility.
“We had an off day (Thursday) and it was only a couple hours’ drive,” Fife said. “It is still hard to believe such a strong athlete could get so sick.
“The (kid was) on top of the world, the No. 1 prospect,” Fife said. “Makes you not take things for granted.”
CATCHER MARK WAGNER went from a guy who might see some major league time this year to someone hoping to get back on the field.
Wagner, 25, suffered a broken hamate bone in his left wrist while swinging at a pitch Thursday night in Pawtucket. Wagner will undergo surgery and is expected to be out 6 to 8 weeks.
But comebacks from wrist injuries can be tricky.
Kalish broke his hamate bone in July 2007, ending his season. He was tentative for much of the 2008 season.
“I feel like it was a good full year (to recover),” Kalish said. “I wasn’t aggressive. Every time you swing and feel pain, it’s not fun. I did that for 3½ months in ’08.”
THE STRIKE OUT Cancer in Kids program is being recognized during today’s game at Hadlock Field. So while figuring out how much you need for parking and a biscuit, bring an extra buck or 10 for a good cause.
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: