TRENTON, N.J. – Opposing hitters can’t be thrilled, but Portland Sea Dogs Manager Kevin Boles loves what he’s seen from the “real” Anthony Ranaudo this season.
After struggling through an injury-plagued 2012, a beefed-up Ranaudo continued his impressive start Saturday night in a 6-0 victory against the Trenton Thunder.
Ranaudo (3-0) retired his first 13 batters, finishing with a career-high nine strikeouts, in six scoreless innings of two-hit ball.
“I had good command of everything and when you come into a game with great command, you don’t try to do too much,” said Ranaudo, a native of nearby Jackson, N.J., who left tickets for 39 friends and family members. “You just try to pound the zone and let everything take care of itself.”
Among Ranaudo’s many impressive numbers this year is holding left-handers to a miniscule .074 (2 for 27) batting average. Right-handers are hitting just .214 (9 for 42) against him. Ranaudo lowered his ERA to 0.83.
Those are the kinds of numbers that gets a pitcher promoted. But there was no chance of that happening after last season.
Ranaudo was drafted 39th overall in 2010 by the Red Sox, who gave him a $2.55 million signing bonus. But his progress slowed last season when injuries limited him to nine starts with the Sea Dogs, in which he went 1-3 with a 6.69 ERA.
But Ranaudo bulked up in the offseason and it’s paid off. After his velocity trailed off last season, he’s found it again and regularly hit 93-94 mph while topping out at 96 against the Thunder.
“Last year I think is a mulligan,” Boles said. “I don’t think we ever saw the real Ranaudo. Even though he was healthy at times, he was playing catch-up due to the injuries. He came in in real good shape, is now healthy, and now we’re starting to see the real Anthony Ranaudo and it’s real exciting.”
“It was a huge learning experience for me,” Ranaudo said of 2012. “I learned some things about my body, learned some things about myself. I worked really hard this offseason, came into spring training in really good shape, and I have to credit the Red Sox staff and everybody that’s working with me. It’s been nice to see the hard work pay off. I want to stay healthy and hopefully keep that going for the whole year.”
That might not be a good thing for batters, at least if Saturday is any indication.
Ranaudo retired the first 13, striking out five. He got some help in left field from Tony Thomas, who made hit-saving catches in the third and fourth. The Thunder got their first hit with one out in the fourth when Kyle Roller slapped an opposite-field liner just inside the bag at first and down the line for a triple.
Ramon Flores’ slowly hit grounder that was just out of the reach of second baseman Heiker Meneses in the sixth was the only other hit allowed by Ranaudo.
The Sea Dogs, who dropped the first game of the series Friday and had lost 17 of their last 22 games in Trenton, scored a pair of runs in the second before taking a comfortable 5-0 lead on Shannon Wilkerson’s three-run triple in the fourth.
That was more than enough for Ranaudo.