Born in Freehold, N.J., home of Bruce Springsteen, Anthony Ranaudo did his birthplace proud in his major league debut, allowing two runs over six innings in the Red Sox’ 4-3 win over the Yankees on Friday night.
Ranaudo, 24, is one of the young pitchers the Red Sox want to find out about as they seek replacements for Jon Lester and John Lackey, who were traded to Oakland and St. Louis, respectively, on Thursday.
In his first test, Ranaudo beat a solid Yankees lineup, showing good command of his fastball, which sat around 92-93 miles per hour with a high of 94.
Ranaudo, who grew up a Yankees fan, had his parents, Angelo and Sharon, in the stands at Fenway Park. Among the highlights was retiring boyhood hero Derek Jeter three times, including his first major league strikeout.
“I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a lot of emotion against the Yankees, who I watched growing up,” Ranaudo said. “At 7:10, I had to focus on the fact that I had to face them and try to beat them. I think I did a good job with that, not worrying about who was in the box and executing my pitches.”
Ranaudo admitted Jeter was his favorite growing up.
“Now I’m pitching against [Jeter] so he’s no longer my favorite player, but it’s awesome to compete against him and what he stands for and his career. Pretty cool to be a part of that,” said Ranaudo.
Ranaudo was 12-4 with a 2.41 ERA in 21 starts at Pawtucket, where in his last 17⅔ innings (three starts) he had allowed only two runs. He had also allowed one or no runs in five of his last six starts. So that good stretch of pitching definitely continued last night.
“I’ve been throwing the ball pretty well lately so I felt confident going out there,” said Ranuado. “But this obviously is a different game, a different state. I still felt confident. I relied heavily on my fastball. I didn’t have command of all my pitches, but I competed.”
Ranaudo said his teammates pulled the Jeter strikeout ball and placed it in his locker.
“That’s going to be part of my life for the rest of my life. It’s pretty awesome,” he said.
Given the Red Sox’ roster dilemma after adding new players from their deals involving Lester and Lackey, Ranaudo will return to Pawtucket for the time being to make room for Joe Kelly, the righthander acquired in the Lackey deal.
Ranaudo is expected to be back, whether that’s soon or when the roster expands in September.
“That part isn’t up to me, “ said Ranaudo, who stands 6 feet 7 inches. “All I can do is everytime I get the ball, go out there and compete and do the things I do well and focus.
‘I’d be lying if I told you there wasn’t a lot of emotion.’
“I’ve made a lot of progress this year,” he added. “I can go six, seven, eight innings and I’m able to be efficient with my pitches and command the zone. I made some mistakes with four walks, but I learned that the major league strike zone is tighter and I have to adjust to that.
“I just tried to pound the zone. [Catcher David Ross] did a great job calling for pitches down in the zone,” Ranaudo said.
Ranaudo entered a surreal kind of clubhouse yesterday afternoon. There were new faces — Yoenis Cespedes and Allen Craig — introduced to new teammates complete with press conferences for both.
Ranaudo, the first Boston pitcher to win his major league debut since Felix Doubront on June 18, 2010, was almost an afterthought.
Before the game, manager John Farrell held a team meeting to discuss the next 54 games with his new team and what he expected from them.
“I wasn’t the only new player here today, but everyone made me feel welcome. It was great to be a part of that. Hopefully I can be part of it in the future,” Ranaudo said.
Ranaudo said that Farrell told him “good job and way to go out there and compete.”
The scene and situation was not lost on him. He knows if he pitches at this level the remainder of the year, he just may have a spot in the rotation.
“Yeah, there are opportunites,” Ranaudo said. “Whenever your name is called you have to make the best of it. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going back to Pawtucket tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll be back and when I get that chance.”
Ranaudo was drafted 39th overall in the June 2010 draft out of Louisiana State, and was rated as the top pitching prospect entering the draft by Baseball America. He was the compensation pick for the Red Sox losing Jason Bay.
There are opportunities for all of Boston’s young pitchers.
If Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Brandon Workman, and Ranaudo pitch well, it reduces the number of veteran starters Ben Cherington will have to obtain in the offseason. Henry Owens is now in Pawtucket and will get a couple of months at Triple A. Who knows if the Red Sox bring him up for a start or two in September?
Cherington is likely to pick off two veteran starters, at least one of the ace variety this offseason. He won’t be afraid to go with youngsters at the back end of the rotation, even if pitch and innings limits normally come into play.
So, first game into the post-trade deadline phase of this season, Ranaudo looked like the real deal.
Not a slam dunk, but encouraging anyway.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.