March 29, 2011 at 9:00 AM
I recently had the opportunity to talk to top prospect Anthony Ranaudo about his baseball career, ranging all the way from high school to being on the brink of pitching his first professional inning with the Red Sox. Here's the transcript of our discussion. For a deeper look at Ranaudo's career, check out this column on ESPN Boston.
Mike Andrews: Can you tell me a little bit about your high school career? Were you scouted heavily? Were you drafted? Did you get a lot of attention from other schools besides LSU?
Anthony Ranaudo: After my junior year of high school, I hit the showcase circuit and went to a bunch of tournaments. Once July 1 rolled around, I started talking to a bunch of schools. After the summer, I had it narrowed down to LSU, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Virginia. I visited all of them – except Vanderbilt – because once I went to LSU, I committed right away because I loved it.
MA: What made you love LSU so much?
AR: The fans, the atmosphere. At that point, we had the old stadium, but they showed me the blueprints for the new stadium, and said it would be ready for my sophomore year. Also the fact that they were starting anew. They had new coaches, all new recruits, so I was going to be part of the next wave – a new generation at LSU. All of that really appealed to me. We had such a great team coming up, and I felt like it would be fun to play a part in turning that team around. We did, and it made for a great experience.
MA: Taking a step back, did you get drafted out of high school?
AR: I did. After my senior year, I got picked in the 11th round by the Rangers. It was an interesting spring with all of the scouts following me. It gave me some good experience, but in the end I was dedicated to LSU, and it wasn’t a tough decision to go to school.
MA: You impressed early on at LSU, can you talk about the experiences during your freshman and sophomore seasons?
AR: In my freshman year, I got hurt. I had a little bit of elbow tendinitis. But since I was so young – I was only about 18 at the time, and they had a bunch of pitchers [ahead of me], so the staff took it slow with me and sat me out for a couple weeks. I really didn’t contribute too much my freshman year, but I was part of the post-season roster, and I got to travel to Omaha [for the College World Series] with them. I gained a lot of experience just doing that. Then I came back my sophomore year. Going in, I made up my mind that since we lost all of our weekend starters, I wanted to be the Friday guy, even though I had only pitched 13 innings the previous season. I worked really hard, had a good fall and pre-season, and wound up being the Friday guy. Louis Coleman and I both ended up having good years, and we led the team to a championship in Omaha. We also had a great offense, so the team just kind of clicked all around. We had a great time, and it made for some good memories.
MA: Then comes your junior season at LSU. I don’t want to put words into your mouth, but you seemed to have some struggles with mechanics or maybe injuries. Can you talk about what happened?
AR: Everything was good until a week before the season started, when I had a little bit of tightness in my elbow. They took some precautionary measures and sat me out for a few weeks. When I came back, I probably wasn’t in as good of shape as I should have been. But when I did come back, everything started off okay from a success standpoint. But then – maybe it was a mechanical thing, I don’t know – it seemed like I was messing up with my pitches. My breaking ball was not nearly as sharp as it had been. From there, it took me a little bit to get back in the groove, and in the meantime I got hit around pretty good. I just didn’t have the success I had had the year before, and that was frustrating, but it was also a learning experience. And I had good teammates, and they all helped me get back on track towards the end of the year. I felt like I started to come around towards the end of the season, especially when we won the SEC Tournament.
MA: So would you say that the struggles were a mix of physical, psychological, and mechanical, and you can’t really just nail one thing down as the main issue?
AR: Yeah – it was a mix. I was healthy, and my arm felt great – there was nothing wrong with my arm. It was all either in my head or mechanical. But the facts are facts. I got hit around, I missed my spots, I walked people, I didn’t have my best stuff, and it seems like every weekend they took advantage of it. I went through some struggles, but it’s all part of the game. It’s that adversity, which I think I overcame, that made me a better pitcher in the long run. And it’s all in the past now.
MA: Regardless of those struggles, I imagine you were still scouted by all thirty teams in the majors?
AR: Everything stayed the same the whole year as far as scouting goes. I didn’t hear until a couple weeks before the draft that I was falling on draft boards. Everything seemed normal - my velocity was the same. So I thought everything was going to be fine, but I guess when you go out there and put up a 7-something ERA, you can fall down some draft boards. But like I said, it all worked out. I’m glad the Red Sox picked me – I’m with a great organization and happy to be here.
MA: Going into Day 1 of the Draft, did you have any expectations on that morning?
AR: Well, I tried not to have any expectations just so I didn’t get let down. But of course, naturally, I did have some expectations, and I was a little let down in falling out of the first round. Like I said though, when the day was over, and I put my head on the pillow, I was just happy to be drafted, realizing that not everybody gets this opportunity. I was ecstatic and excited to see what was going to happen that summer and to see if I could come to terms with the Sox.
MA: Did you know that it was going to be the Red Sox before the team picked you, or did you not find out until you saw it on a ticker?
AR: It’s a funny story actually. We didn’t know what was going to happen in the first round area. Then my advisor [Scott Boras] called me and said “it looks like the Sox might pick you in the supplemental round.” I was actually in an airport during the first round coming back from our Regional, and I was on the plane when I got picked. After we landed, I actually tried to turn my phone on when we were taxiing on the runway, but somebody in front of me got his phone on first – one of my teammates – and he turned around and said, “Congrats, man, you got picked by the Sox at number 39.” Once I got my phone on, I had a million text messages and got a bunch of calls from my family congratulating me.
MA: From there, you went to the Cape Cod League, and put up some excellent numbers. What was that experience like?
AR: I remember I was driving from Louisiana to New Jersey, by myself in my car for a 20-hour drive, thinking about a ton of things during that drive. One of those things was that the Cape League experience could either make or break me as a pitcher. I could go there, and keep all the stuff that happened last year in my mind, and maybe go down the drain as a pitcher. Or I could look myself in the mirror and just say “you’re a lot better than that, you can overcome the adversity, make yourself into a better pitcher, and really dedicate yourself.” And that’s what I did. I feel like I had great focus up there. I also had really good teammates and really good coaches who allowed me to do what I wanted. They backed me when I went out there and pitched. We were all on the same page, and that helped get me into a great routine. Everything just kind of came into place. My arm felt good and my stuff was working. My team was rated as the number one summer team in the country at one point. It was just a really great summer, those five to six weeks I spent up there. It was also fun living there - I had a really good host family, and it was a really nice area. I also became close friends with all of the guys up there.
MA: What was the initial reasoning for going to the Cape League?
AR: There were two reasons. The first reason was [the limited ininngs] I got during the season - I only pitched about 55 innings at LSU. So I wanted to keep my arm in shape, to go there and get at least 30 innings so I could maybe get up to 85 to 90 innings for the year. That way, if I did go back to LSU, I would have that many innings under my belt and be in good shape for Fall Ball. And then second, obviously, was to go up there and showcase myself to the Red Sox a little bit more, so they can get a good look at me, focus in and watch my routine in their own backyard. Those were the two ends up the spectrum, and I’m just glad it worked out for everybody.
MA: Did the Red Sox come and watch all of your starts?
AR: I think they sent some people every time I pitched. There was always someone there watching.
MA: It’s been reported that a deal with the Red Sox was a last minute thing, that you basically signed at the midnight hour on signing deadline day. Is that what actually happened? How close were you to actually going back to LSU?
AR: To be honest, everything happened in the last five minutes – that’s the 100% truth. At 11:55, I got a phone call saying $2.55 million is the offer. That’s where I saw myself. I told [LSU Coach Paul] Mainieri a few days earlier that if I get the bonus I want, I’m going to sign, but if I get a penny less than what I want, I’m going to come back. So Coach Mainieri knew that it just came down to what the Red Sox offered, and they ended up offering what I wanted. We were all on the same page.
MA: Were there negotiations with the Red Sox leading up to that point? Or was it just that you told them up front what you wanted, and then you didn’t hear from them until the last minute?
AR: Exactly [the latter]. There really weren’t any other negotiations. They knew what I wanted, and that whole time in Cape Cod was an evaluation period, to see if they thought I was worth what I thought I was worth. It all came together and worked out in the end. I would have loved to have gone back to LSU, but I’m happy about being a professional baseball player now, especially in the Red Sox organization.
MA: So you headed off to Lowell from there and didn’t end up pitching. I assume that was a front office decision?
AR: Right. As soon as I signed, I [was] in their hands. They told me where to go, so I headed up to Lowell to get adapted to professional baseball. I wasn’t going to pitch, but they just wanted to get me in the routine. I spent a little over two weeks there and finished the year with them. It was good to get my feet wet and see how everything works, and to meet some of the players and coaches.
MA: And then you went to the Fall Instructional League. Did you pitch there?
AR: No, I didn’t pitch. I went to Instrux for a little over two weeks, to do the strength and conditioning program. I got to sit with the older guys and pick their brains. I also got to meet a bunch of the front office people, and a lot of the on-field coaches. It was just a matter of learning how things work in the system.
MA: What did you do over the winter?
AR: The Red Sox gave us a throwing program and a lifting guide. I tried to follow that to the best of my ability, knowing my body, and knowing the Red Sox obviously want me to report in shape. I also combined that with a workout at BSTI – the Boras Sports Training Institute in California. I went there for a couple weeks and worked out with my agent, did kind of a hybrid workout [while] following the Red Sox throwing program so I can show up here and be ready to go.
MA: How are you feeling now?
AR: I feel great. My arm feels unbelievable. I’m just excited to pitch on Saturday [March 19] and finally get out there.
MA: That will be your first action?
AR: That will be my first professional anything. First time in a Red Sox uniform on the mound, so I’m pretty jacked up. I’ll probably go two innings.
MA: Is your arsenal or mechanics any different than when you were at LSU?
AR: At this point, it’s not any different. The Red Sox are just letting me keep everything the same. I’m just working on being consistent with my fastball – being able to locate and really establish that pitch. I’d also like to be able to work off of that and continue the development of my changeup. I feel like I have a pretty good feel for my curveball, so I just want to make sure to stay consistent with that. With the development of my changeup, I feel like I can have three true pitches and attack hitters with that arsenal.
MA: Have you had any discussions with the front office in terms of where you might be starting?
AR: Nope, I have not had any conversations. They may know, but I hear that they don’t fill us in until the last couple days before we break camp. I‘m just getting ready, preparing for anything, and wherever they tell me to go, I’m going.
MA: Have you felt any pressure as a result of being labeled as the new top pitching prospect in the organization?
AR: Well, this is pretty much my first media interview this spring, so I haven’t felt any pressure on that front. But even if I had [talked to the media more], I wouldn’t feel pressure. If people consider me that, that’s great. If not, I haven’t even thrown an inning – or even one pitch – yet as a [member of the] Red Sox. Right now I’m just trying to go out there and get better, to develop myself into the pitcher I think I can be. If I can go out there and get better every day, and just work hard, wherever that takes me is great. I just want to go out and compete right now.
MA: Have you ever worked as a reliever?
AR: I’ve always worked as a starter. I feel like I adapt to changes well, so if the Red Sox told me they need me to relieve, that’s fine, whatever they need from me. But I’ve always been a starter, I see myself as a starter, and I hope the team does as well. I want to be a frontline starter at the major league level.
MA: Is there any one teammate that has really impressed you so far this spring?
AR: Since we just started games a couple days ago, I haven’t had a chance to see much game action, so it’s kind of hard to tell at this point. I’m still just getting to know everybody. I've been working with a lot of the pitchers on the Salem field. I saw Drake Britton throw, he threw really well the other day. Kendal Volz - he’s a great leader from what I’ve seen. Pete Ruiz pitched really well. [I'm impressed with] all the Triple-A and Double-A guys. I see that they all just carry themselves so well and those are the guys I try to watch and follow because they’ve been through the system, and are obviously doing something right to make it up to those levels. Those are the guys I’m watching to focus on their daily routines.
MA: Last question, it’s a bit of an off-topic one. Being from New Jersey, how do you feel about how New Jersey is being represented with the whole Jersey Shore thing?
AR: You know what’s scary, is it’s true. That show is dead on with what happens in the summer in Jersey. Those are the people that come down there – the people from Long Island, from Staten Island, and New York [City]. They come down to the Shore and rent houses, and live that life. It’s actually pretty accurate, and to be honest with you, I’m a big fan of Jersey Shore. I watch it every week. I love it - it’s fun. It’s good entertainment.