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June 3, 2011 at 11:11 PM

Ranaudo pitches well in High-A debut

FREDERICK, Md. -- Nearly a year after Boston selected him on the first day of the 2010 MLB Draft, pitcher Anthony Ranaudo took another step towards the majors Friday night. The 6-foot-7 right-hander from LSU made his High-A debut for Salem in a 4-2 road loss to the Frederick Keys at Harry Grove Stadium, picking up the loss, striking out 5 and allowing 4 runs on 8 hits in 6.0 innings of work. Despite the loss, Ranaudo said he was pleased with his first start in the Carolina League.

“Obviously, we didn’t get the win, but I thought it was a good start,” Ranaudo said. “I didn’t do a good job of setting the tone because I gave up those runs early, but I thought I settled in and pounded the strike zone pretty well late. I feel well about how I pitched tonight.”

59 of Ranaudo’s 81 pitches were strikes, and he threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of 26 batters. Ranaudo’s fastball sat between 90 and 92 MPH and touched 94 in the first inning, and featured a biting high-70s curveball and a low-80s changeup. He threw his fastball 49 times in the game.

“He got a lot of weak contact early in the game,” said catcher Dan Butler, who was behind the plate for Ranaudo’s debut. “He kept the ball down for the most part. His curveball is a really good over-the-top breaking ball, and he looked like he picked up his velocity as the game went on.”

Manager Bruce Crabbe said he thought Ranaudo got more comfortable as the game progressed.

“He was pretty amped up early in the game and I thought he finished up stronger than he started,” Crabbe said. “We didn’t play very well behind him, but I was very pleased with what I saw.”

Ranaudo went through a stretch in the third and fourth innings when he wasn’t following through on his pitches, leaving them up in the strike zone. Salem pitching coach Kevin Walker was impressed with Ranaudo’s ability to correct his mechanics on the fly.

“We call it a lack of finish,” Walker said. “He wasn’t finishing his fastball down and the ball was elevating. He gave up some hits there, but I thought he made a great adjustment late in the fifth and sixth to step off, gather himself a little bit, recognize what he wanted to do and do it. I think he pitched his best inning in the sixth. That last inning is going to be something he can build on.”

Ranaudo acknowledged that keeping his shoulder in and not finishing his fastball is his biggest mechanical issue at this point.

“Being so long at 6-foot-7, sometimes I run into difficulty (finishing my pitches),” he said. “Once I fix it, it’s a quick little in-game adjustment and I find I’m able to keep the ball down a lot better, which is what I did tonight.”

His mechanics were clean early in the game, but the Keys did most of their damage in the first two innings. Leadoff batter Steve Brumby doubled, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a misplayed ground ball to third baseman Kolbrin Vitek. Vitek committed his second error of the inning in the following at-bat, this one an errant throw to first, but Ranaudo picked up his first High-A strikeout and induced a fly ball to get out of the inning with limited damage.

He picked up two more strikeouts in the second, the first on a 92 MPH fastball, and the second to end the inning on a curveball. But he also gave up three singles, all on off-speed pitches, allowing the Keys to score twice. Walker said that in these instances, Ranaudo’s pitches were actually too good.

“The only thing he did with that curveball was throw too good of pitches with it,” Walker said. “He had a lot of key moments where he probably could have expanded the zone, but he left that curveball up and they got some hits on it. But I love his curveball. The rotation and the bite are really good. He’s going to learn from this.”

Ranaudo settled down in the third, allowing a leadoff single but picking up his fourth strikeout of the night. He cruised through the fourth, throwing just six pitches before running into trouble in the fifth. After inducing a 6-4-3 double play, a 92 MPH Ranaudo fastball to Keys first baseman Tyler Townsend found too much of the plate and was deposited over the center-field wall for a solo home run. Ranaudo walked the next batter, his only free pass of the night, before getting out of the inning with his fifth and final strikeout of the game.

He rebounded for an efficient sixth inning, retiring the Keys in order on nine pitches, the last of which was a 93 MPH fastball that was popped up and caught by Vitek.

Drafted 39th overall by the Red Sox in the 2010 draft, Ranaudo signed on August 15 for $2.55 million and broke camp this spring with Low-A Greenville, where he went 4-1 with a 3.33 ERA in 10 South Atlantic League starts. He said the time spent in Greenville was essential to his progression as a professional baseball.

“I got used to the five-day routine down in Greenville, and I got to learn professional baseball a little bit,” he said. “Greenville is a great facility and they have a ton of fans. It was a great experience for me.”