Editor's note: Each day this week, NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will profile Ryan Kalish's rise to the big leagues. On Wednesday, his triumph over his slow start was highlighted.
A few days before Jacoby Ellsbury first broke his ribs in that fateful collision in Kansas City, Ryan Kalish hit his first home run of the season for Double-A Portland. When Mike Cameron played his final game of April before sitting down for the first time with abdominal issues, Kalish had recorded his first stolen base.
Days after Ellsbury was sat down a second time in late May, Kalish went 5-for-5 with a home run. The day Cameron began his second session on the bench soon thereafter, Kalish singled, doubled, walked and scored three times.
Not everyone was paying attention to what Kalish was doing while the Red Sox outfield crumbled early in the 2010 season, but the events in Boston and Portland were slowly becoming intertwined.
In fact, it was a rehab stint by Cameron that began to bring the two worlds a bit closer.
Playing with the Sea Dogs for three games just before Kalish had the 5-for-5 outing, Cameron was struck by what he saw from the Double-A standout. Months later, after Cameron was done for the year, he recalled how he had been given a glimpse of the future, and how he knew that the youngster was not that far from making an impact at the major league level.
"It almost just seems like he's been out for a while, like he’s been with us all along," Cameron said in early August. "He was thrown into left field right off the bus and he just started doing his thing."
Of course, there was a little more work to be done before Kalish was "thrown into left field" for the Red Sox on July 31, the day that saw the organization effectively part ways with underwhelming outfielder Jeremy Hermida. Kalish first needed to take what had impressed a 16-year veteran on a rehab stint and make it work at the Triple-A level. Once he did that, he had to bide his time.
Boston wasn't ready to give up on either Ellsbury or Cameron, but they were using Darnell McDonald, Daniel Nava and Josh Reddick as fill-ins until that final decision needed to be made. While each did an admirable job, there was a stretch soon after Kalish was promoted to Pawtucket around Memorial Day that made it clear that he would have to be thrown into the mix as well.
In a span of 12 games that coincided with Cameron's final days before being sidelined for good, Hermida's spiral into his eventual release and Ellsbury's continued absence, Kalish hit .458 with a home run and eight stolen bases in as many attempts.
The hot stretch came after Kalish had a week off of his own because of injury, something which may have been a blessing in disguise. The organization was doing its best to find days off for the extremely hard-nosed Kalish. A quick stint on the DL allowed him to lick his wounds, recharge and take stock of the competition at the Triple-A level.
"I think his body's fresh and his mind is fresh," Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo said at the time. "It probably taught him a couple lessons, that this level isn't as difficult as he thought it was when he first got up here. He's got every learning mechanism mastered — he's a very crafty guy."
That craftiness and ability to learn new things would soon be put to the test in a major way, and this time it would be at the most difficult level of all. However, Kalish would not have the benefit of many days off.
Check back Friday for a detailed look at the two months Kalish spent with the Red Sox in 2010.