MANCHESTER, N.H. – Several scouts were scattered throughout the box seats of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on Monday night, taking a look at Portland Sea Dogs right-hander Anthony Ranaudo.
They pointed radar guns and jotted down notes.
But one scout’s gesture said it all. After watching Ranaudo, he held out his hand and then raised it.
Ranaudo had a hard time keeping his pitches down, and gave up five earned runs in 42/3 innings.
Ranaudo, the Boston Red Sox top pitching prospect, allowed only three hits — one an infield grounder, another on a broken bat — but his lack of command led to five walks. Of his 88 pitches, only 48 were for strikes.
“Sometimes the game is humbling,” he said. “I have to do a better job of figuring out what’s making my fastball command so off. Once I figure it out, I think things will become a lot better for me.”
Ranaudo, 22, is in his second pro season, and made his second start in Double-A.
In Ranaudo’s first start last week in Reading, Pa., he said he had poor command, walking three and mislocating his fastball. He gave up four runs in four innings.
That start could be blamed on rust, as Ranaudo got a late start to the season because of a groin muscle strain in spring training.
Monday’s start demonstrated that Ranaudo is still not in sync.
“Same thing,” he said. And though this is his first season in Double-A, Ranaudo said that has little to do with his struggles.
“I know myself as a pitcher, I’ve never had command issues like that, up in the zone, flying open,” Ranaudo said.
“It’s taking away from my fastball. My velocity has been down. There hasn’t been as much life on my fastball as there was in spring training.”
Ranaudo threw his fastball between 89 and 92 mph, along with a crisp curveball and an occasional changeup. He got through two innings without trouble, allowing one walk.
But two four-pitch walks in the third, along with an infield single and a Mike McDade double on a hanging changeup, gave the New Hampshire Fisher Cats a 3-0 lead.
“He usually has a lot of life to his fastball, a lot of late life,” said Sea Dogs catcher Dan Butler, who also caught Ranaudo in Class A last year. “He usually does a good job commanding the zone and going after hitters.”
Ranaudo left in the fifth inning after a two-out, broken-bat RBI single by McDade.
“Obviously something is wrong,” Ranaudo said. “But it’s nothing that’s major.
“It’s a few minor things that I will be able to get with (pitching coach Bob Kipper) in between starts this week and we’re going to take care of it, and hopefully bounce back for my next start, and be rolling after that.”
Maybe his third start will be the charm. Ranaudo makes his Hadlock Field debut Saturday, in a game to be televised by NESN.
Butler, the catcher, is not worried about his pitcher.
“It’s not something completely out of whack,” Butler said. “He will be all right.”
Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at: