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Ranaudo lights out in first Grapefruit League start

Red Sox prospect fans four, hurls two scoreless innings against visiting Twins

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Ranaudo lights out in first Grapefruit League start

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- In an intriguing glimpse at what could be coming to Fenway Park sometime soon, perhaps even at some point in 2014, Anthony Ranaudo treated the fans at JetBlue Park to a 24-pitch display of dominance on Friday afternoon.

Touted as one of the many young guns in the Red Sox's farm system, Ranaudo might be the one who is closest to making an impact at the Major League level.

Of the six batters Ranaudo faced in his Spring Training debut, none made hard contact.

There were four strikeouts and two soft tappers back to the box. If you hadn't guessed, the 24-year-old Ranaudo is a power pitcher.

"I was just going out there and trying to be aggressive," said Ranaudo. "[I was] just trying to fill up the zone. Especially being a starting pitcher, get the flow of the game going, so I was trying to be aggressive with my fastball. I was able to go side-to-side. I wasn't down in the zone as much as I'd like, but overall it went pretty well."

For a team that won the World Series last year, it's pretty exciting to know that an arm like Ranaudo should be on the way.

"He's awesome," said third baseman Will Middlebrooks. "I played with him a little when I was in Pawtucket last year. He fills up the zone, but at the same time, he's got really good stuff. I'm excited to see how it pans out."

Ranaudo, who is ranked the Red Sox's No. 6 prospect, has always seemed destined to be an upper-echelon pitcher, but health problems derailed his progress in college, and in the Minors.

Heading into 2010, Ranaudo was considered by most of the expert publications to be the top college prospect. But bothered by elbow woes, he posted a 7.32 ERA in that final season at LSU, which paved the way for the Red Sox to be able to pick him with the 39th pick in the First-Year Player Draft that year.

After a decent enough opening season in Boston's farm system, Ranaudo again got derailed by injuries in 2012 -- first a groin and then a tired shoulder -- putting up a 6.69 ERA in his nine starts for Double-A Portland.

Last year, however, Ranaudo was decidedly healthy -- and it showed. In a season that started at Double-A Portland and ended in Triple-A Pawtucket, Ranaudo went 11-5 with a 2.96 ERA, notching 127 strikeouts in 140 innings.

Ranaudo not only looks healthy, but at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, he has that sturdy pitchers' body that just might keep him that way.

"He added some size, he added some strength prior to last season," manager John Farrell said. "Whether that's the direct result of staying healthy, that's debatable. The fact is he put a full Minor League season under his belt. Just the way he's been walking around here, he's not been in awe of the situation. He's not been intimidated by anything. I think that's a continued growth and confidence for him.

"As far as profiling and looking at the physical package, he's got everything you're looking for in a starting pitcher with power stuff, with the ability to pitch innings. It's hard at this point to begin to either put him in a category or compare him to anyone else, but he's a very good prospect."

Ranaudo's biggest challenge Friday was just to harness his emotions.

"There was definitely some adrenaline there," Ranaudo said. "I think all the older guys kept the situation light for me. I had a lot of fun when I was going out there. That's the approach I took. I was just trying to have fun with it and get that first one under my belt."

Yes, just a first step, albeit a solid one.

"I thought he was impressive," said Farrell. "Three pitches for strikes. He was aggressive through the strike zone, and when he leveraged his fastball downhill, he was able to generate some swing and miss. An impressive two innings of work today for his first outing here."

But by no means perfect either, even if the linescore was.

"I think if you asked him, he wasn't hitting his spots and working down like he wants to, but I think a lot of that has to do with first-time adrenaline," said catcher David Ross. "But he moved a fastball in and out really well, struck some guys out, pitched with his fastball. That's one of the things you're looking for early on in spring. Even the veteran guys are trying to pitch their fastball and let the breaking stuff come. I was very impressed with Anthony, he did a great job."

Just like Henry Owens and Matt Barnes, two other arms who have generated buzz in Boston's farm system, this is the first Major League camp for Ranaudo.

"There's a lot of things I expect from myself, but the first thing is to try to learn as much from some of the older guys when I'm around them right now, just go out there and take it day by day, just like I've done the last couple of years," Ranaudo said. "I know that I had a little hiccup in 2012 with some injuries and stuff like that, but that's the approach I've taken so far. Overall, other than 2012, I've been pretty pleased with how the progression is going."

Where last year Ranaudo was just trying to get his feet back on the ground, he is able to make a lot of headway with mechanics these days.

"I think one of the things that has made a pretty big impact on him is the increased tempo inside his delivery," said Farrell. "It has allowed him to get his release point consistently with all three of the pitches mentioned."

Already, Ranaudo exudes the type confidence required to succeed against the best competition.

Was he surprised at how he fared in his first performance against Major League hitters?

"That's what I'm going for every time I go out there -- either swing and misses or weak contact or getting outs," Ranaudo said. "I don't like to use the word surprised, but I guess maybe in that context, some of them were up in the zone, but it felt good to get those swing-and-misses, for sure."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ,"spring_training" ] }
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