Anthony Ranaudo lasted until the 39th pick of this year’s draft, but the 6-foot-7 right-hander might have the highest upside of any hurler selected. The Red Sox certainly hope so, as it took a $2,550,000 signing bonus—an agreement made minutes before the August 16 deadline—to get the LSU flamethrower in the fold. Widely regarded as the top draft-eligible pitcher going into the season, he ultimately fell to Boston in the sandwich round due to an inconsistent junior campaign, concerns about his elbow, and the Scott Boras factor. Ranaudo, who will turn 21 next week, joined the short-season Lowell Spinners after spending the summer pitching in the Cape Cod League.
David Laurila: What has pro ball been like for you so far?
Anthony Ranaudo: It’s been fun. It’s a different experience, a new chapter in my life and definitely exciting, even though I won’t be pitching this year. I’m here getting on a specific throwing program, and getting with my teammates and meeting some of the managers and personnel guys, and I can’t wait for the future. For the most part, that future begins for me next year.
DL: What value are you getting from those interactions, and from the throwing program?
AR: Part of it is realizing that this is a different level from college. It’s called professional baseball and that’s what it is. It’s a life, and a lifestyle, and it’s a job. You go out there every single day and work as hard as you can, and you have an ultimate goal that you work for. You meet people along the way and you work with them, trying to get better every day.
Right now, I’m on a basic throwing program. I’m just starting from the bottom, because I took off four weeks after my Cape Cod season. I’ve been throwing from 60 feet for the past week and just jumped up to 90 feet this past week. Eventually I’ll build myself up and work throughout the winter—on the throwing program—leading up to spring training. I also have a strength-and-conditioning program that I’m on right now, just basic lifting and running. That will get more advanced once the offseason comes.
DL: Can you elaborate on the throwing program?
AR: Every day they have a plan for you with a certain distance that you need to throw from and a certain amount of throws you need to make. Then it adjusts to how your arm feels and how your body feels, and how much they want to build you up and how strong you want to be—the goals you‘re going toward—and stuff like that. That’s the way they’ve structured it.
DL: What specifically was the arm issue you had this past season?
AR: It was diagnosed as a stress reaction in my bone and it caused some of the muscles in my forearm to tighten up. That was really about it. We took a cautious approach at LSU where we shut me down for a little while, probably a little more than I even needed to, just to play it safe. It was early in the year and I haven’t had any recurring issues since then.
DL: You went right down to the wire before coming to terms. Now that it’s in the rear-view mirror, what was the draft-and-sign process like for you?
AR: It’s a big sigh of relief, first of all. But it was just business. It was the way it was going to be. All of my advisors told me, “Look, it’s going to come down to the last day, the last couple of minutes, because that’s the way it is. That’s the way the business works, and the way the commissioner’s office works,” and that’s the way that it was. I was 100 percent ready to go back to LSU if the Red Sox didn’t come up with what I thought I deserved, but ultimately they did and I’m very happy and excited to be here. I’m happy that it got done.
DL: How much did your performance in the Cape Cod League this summer influence the negotiations?
AR: I’m sure it helped. It was right in their backyard, so all of the Red Sox front-office men and their scouts saw me, so I’m sure it helped. I went there more for myself, to kind of just feel good about myself and to get into a routine—get back to being the pitcher that I was. The Red Sox got a chance to see me, and evaluate me further, and I did well. I’m sure that it helped to ultimately convince them that I was healthy and the pitcher I knew I was.
DL: Who initiated you pitching on the Cape?
AR: I had talked to my advisor, who is my agent now, Scott Boras, and some of his men—some of the guys who work for him, like Bob Brower, Jim Pizzolatto, and Scott Chiamparino. We all sat down and they asked me how I felt toward the end of the year at LSU, and I said, “You know what, I really wish I could have four, five, six more starts; that would be perfect, because my arm feels the best it has all year. I’m finally getting into a rhythm.” They said, “Well, what about going to pitch in summer ball?” I was like, “I haven’t really thought about that.” I sat down with my coaches at LSU and they were open to it; if I came back [to LSU], they’d be OK with it. And it was good for me. I got more innings; I got up to 85 innings for the year. So it was a collective decision between a couple groups of people.
DL: After the Red Sox called your name on draft day, what was the first phone call you received?
AR: I was actually on a plane when I got drafted. I was flying back from UCLA, so I had about 10 different voice mails when I landed. I had a message from (Red Sox general manager) Theo (Epstein), I had a message from the scouting director, I had a message from the area scout. I had a message from my parents, who were watching it live on TV. To tell you the truth, I don’t even know who the first one to call me was.
DL: Were you expecting to have messages when you got off the plane?
AR: Yeah. I thought that I might be drafted earlier, so I was kind of expecting to find out even before I got on the plane, but it didn’t happen. I think they were on pick 25 when I got on, so I figured that by the time we landed, which was about two hours later, I would have been drafted and would have messages waiting for me.
DL: Which of the calls did you return first?
AR: I called my parents first and talked to them about it. It was something I had worked for my entire life, so I wanted to talk to them first. All of the Red Sox messages were saying, “Congratulations, we picked you and we look forward to talking to you in the future. No need to call us back if you don’t want to.” And I don’t think I even called any of them back until the next day, actually. I talked to Theo the next morning.
DL: Most fans have seen your scouting reports, but how would you describe yourself as a pitcher?
AR: The first thing I’ll say is that I’m competitive and a hard worker. I’m going to go out there and work hard on all of my weaknesses in order to make myself into the best pitcher that I can possibly be. Then, when I toe the rubber, I’m going to compete. I’m going to go after you with a good fastball and I’m going to pitch off of my fastball. I’m very confident in my secondary stuff. I feel that I have a lot of tools that can beat teams. I can last long into games and use a various number of weapons, I guess you could say, as far as my pitches go. But I’d say that the biggest thing is that I’m a competitor. I’m going to battle every time. Even if I don’t have my best stuff, I’m going to give it everything I have and try to get my team a win.
DL: Do you consider yourself a power pitcher?
AR: Yes. I’ve always been a power pitcher, my whole life. I realize, getting into pro ball, that a 90-95 mph fastball isn’t necessarily a power-power fastball, because there are guys that have the mid- to upper-90s stuff, but I pitch off my fastball a lot, so I still consider myself to have a power fastball. I have good, heavy life on my ball, so a lot of my strikeouts come from elevated fastballs. In that sense, I consider myself a power pitcher,
DL: Is your power fastball a four-seamer?
AR: It’s a four-seamer, yeah, but I also throw a two-seamer that gets a little run and sink, which I throw in to righties and away to lefties to try to get some ground balls.
DL: What else is in your repertoire?
AR: I throw a changeup and a spike curve, which is basically a curveball with one of my fingers spiked up. I’ve been throwing it since I was 14; it was the first curveball that I ever learned. I’ve never thrown any other kind of curveball, and I have pretty good command of it, so I feel very comfortable throwing it. It has some tight spin, so I’m able to throw it hard. It gets a lot of downward action.
DL: Any final thoughts?
AR: I’m a team guy. My team comes first. This organization comes first. I’m not working for Anthony Ranaudo, I’m working for the Boston Red Sox and I’m working to get to the major-league level. I’m working as hard as I can to get to the major leagues and hopefully be a very successful front-line starter for the Boston Red Sox.