Former LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo had just come off of a promising performance with the Texas Rangers in which he shut out the Los Angeles Dodgers for 6.2 innings on June 18.
However, on Wednesday at Zephyr Field, Ranaudo was being shelled by the Class Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. Pitching for the Round Rock Express, he allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings in a 6-3 loss. It was an indication as to why Ranaudo, the first-round pick (39th overall) of the Boston Red Sox in 2010 after helping LSU win the College World Series, has not stuck in the major leagues.
“As a starting pitcher, consistency is the biggest thing,” Ranaudo, 25, said. “Whatever team you’re playing for, whether the majors or Triple-A, being able to go out there almost every single time for five, six, seven innings is the biggest thing for me.”
The performance against the Dodgers was as encouraging as it was impressive. In Ranaudo’s first major league outing with the Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels blasted him for six runs in one inning.
“I think the first outing, I put a little pressure on myself,” he said. “I thought I had an opportunity to establish myself. Looking back on it, I think I tried to do too much and make things happen. It took away the effectiveness of my pitches.”
Overall, the Rangers like that Ranaudo, 6-foot-7, “has a good angle on his fastball, which isn’t easy for hitters to see,” Express manager Jason Wood said. Before Wednesday’s game at Zephyr Field, he was 7-1 with a 2.45 earned-run average, fourth in the Pacific Coast League.
“He’s doing a lot of things better than he showed in spring training,” Wood said. “He’s working down in the zone more. He’s very effective with his offspeed pitches, he’s getting ahead of the hitters. I think he’s controlling the way he pitches and doing a very good job.”
As a big pitcher, Wood said mechanics is an issue, that Ranaudo sometimes gets the ball up in the strike zone.
Ranaudo said, however, that he’s not far from being a major league starter. In his first big-league experience, he went 4-3 last season with the Red Sox, but had a 4.81 earned-run average.
He gave up 10 home runs and had more walks (16) than strikeouts (15). However, he said it was a good learning experience. Learning the difference between a strike and a quality strike, he said, he didn’t allow a home run in the two MLB starts this season.
“I think I’m ready,” he said. “I’ve been up and down the past two years and made some good quality starts. It’s just a matter of when.”
Wood said the Rangers have a plan for Ranaudo.
“He’s here to add some depth (the Rangers) need,” Wood said. “He answered the call his last time and put his name on the map. He’s (with Round Rock) to start for us and keep progressing in his mechanics and doing the things he’s been doing. He’s progressing.”
Ranuado seemed to be progressing well with Boston. He was the Eastern League pitcher of the year with Double-A Portland in 2013 then the Triple-A pitcher of the year last season with Pawtuckett. However, the Red Sox had one left-hander in their bullpen with major league experience, so General Manager Ben Cherington targeted Rangers southpaw Robbie Ross as one who could help them.
“Even when you make the most of your opportunities, there are decisions that are out of your hands,” Ranaudo said. “And, coming to Texas, I thought I had a good opportunity to become a starter, but some guys just pitched better than me in spring training.
“This year, I’ve been able to work on my delivery, repeat my mechanics and mix my pitches effectively.”
All of which could help him become more consistent.