More than a year removed from the neck and shoulder injuries that short-circuited his 2011 season, Ryan Kalish began his long road back to the big leagues when he was assigned to Single A Salem last Saturday.
Kalish, 24, started at designated hitter, going 2 for 4 with a solo homer in a 5-3 loss at Frederick, Md., a game that featured the Single A debut of Dylan Bundy, the Orioles’ 19-year-old phenom pitching prospect.
While Bundy had departed by the time Kalish homered in the ninth, that did not diminish the lift Kalish got rounding the bases.
“It’s a really good feeling to have,’’ Kalish said in a podcast interview with Salem Red Sox broadcaster Evan Lepler. “It’s been a really long time since I hit one.’’
The last time Kalish homered was at Seattle Sept. 13, 2010, during a 53-game stint with the Red Sox.
“It kind of gives you the feeling that you still got it,’’ Kalish said. “You can still play this game. I mean, it’s been so long, and it’s kind of scary to be out that long and see if you still have it.
“Obviously, you’re never going to be the same guy you were, but it gave me the confidence that, hey, you’ve done all this hard work and it’s starting to pay off.’’
Kalish’s 2011 season took an unfortunate turn last April when he injured his shoulder diving for a ball (“I did make the catch,’’ he said proudly) in a game for Pawtucket at McCoy Stadium.
“After five weeks of rehab, I was out trying to play in my first game down in Florida,’’ Kalish recalled. “I hit a ball to shortstop and ran down the line and my neck went out on me.
“After that, it was a process of trying to beat that without surgery, and three months later, it was time to call it quits on the season and start taking care of my body surgically.’’
Kalish underwent neck surgery in September and shoulder surgery in November.
After two more starts for Salem, playing the outfield, Kalish was promoted Wednesday to Double A Portland. He played center field in Thursday’s 7-2 victory at Harrisburg, Pa., going 1 for 4 with a double and a spectacular catch against the wall to end the game.
While he is only four games into his journey, Kalish has had to make physical adjustments.
“It’s crazy, I’m 24 years old and I have these aches and pains that I probably shouldn’t have for another 15 years,’’ he said. “But when your body gets surgically repaired, your body is getting used to different things like anchors and sutures in your shoulder, so it’s just a matter of time before I feel like my body adapts to it.
“There are some aches and pains, but for the most part I’m feeling good. I’m running good, and the throwing is something that my mind is still a little wary on, but hopefully it won’t be.’’
It’s all part of getting back to Fenway Park.
“Yeah, I want to get back to the big leagues and prove I can do it again. But for now I’m grateful that I’m able to play. You hear about guys’ careers and how injuries can shorten them, and mine, obviously, is one of them so far.
“You never know when your last game is going to be, and I’ve been playing seven years and it feels like it’s gone by like this [a snap].
“There’s no timeline. Obviously, I want to be there tomorrow - or, I want to be there yesterday I guess is a better term - but I know this is a process.’’
A deep impression
Pawtucket slugger Lars Anderson recently made ESPN’s “Top 10 Plays’’ with a 450-foot homer to right-center in McCoy Stadium that knocked out a panel in the stadium’s video board.
“He’s the first player to hit the video board on the fly,’’ said PawSox spokesman Bill Wanless. “He really got a hold of it. As soon as it happened, we put in a call to the scoreboard maintenance people and they came the next day and took care of it.’’
Who footed the bill?
“There’s no truth it was Lars,’’ Wanless said. “We’ll take care of it. It was well worth it.’’
Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler was asked to compare Anderson’s shot with one Will Middlebrooks hit earlier this season at Syracuse that Beyeler described as a “spanked 2-iron.’’
“It wasn’t as hard,’’ said Beyeler, “because [Middlebrooks] hit another one of those [Wednesday] night I saw, but this one was further. It was hit really far.
“Lars’s homer went a looong way. To hit up on the scoreboard like that was pretty impressive. They don’t have a net or anything because nobody really hits balls up there.’’
Salem’s Travis Shaw, who was the first to take Bundy deep with a two-run homer, belted two more homers in the second game of a doubleheader sweep over Lynchburg Wednesday night. Shaw ranks among the Carolina League leaders in batting average (third, .340), slugging percentage (fourth, .543), total bases (fourth, 88), and extra-base hits (tied fourth, 22) . . . Salem outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. was the first to get a crack at Bundy as the leadoff hitter Saturday and claimed he would take a hack at the first pitch. He did not, but he did line a 2-and-2 fastball to right field for a single. Bundy, who had allowed only five hits in 30 innings at Low A Delmarva, gave up six hits in five innings against Salem . . . Outfielder Bryce Brentz went 5 for 5 for the second time this month for Double A Portland in Thursday’s 7-2 win at Harrisburg. Brentz, who raised his average to .306, had three doubles and four runs as the Sea Dogs belted a season-high 16 hits to secure their first series win of the season, taking two of three. Brentz, who also went 5 for 5 May 13 against Trenton, became the first player in franchise history to record a pair of five-hit games.