SEATTLE -- The three of them first crossed paths four years ago in the instructional league, just months after being drafted by the Red Sox. Lars Anderson can remember meeting Ryan Kalish back then, and also Josh Reddick.
Through the ensuing months and years, there would be various ups and downs for the three left-handed hitters, but they shared a goal of one day playing for the Red Sox.
And there they were the night of Sept. 8, at Fenway Park, having a bit of a surreal experience together. This was no longer Double-A or Triple-A, but the Major Leagues, playing for one of the game's most storied franchises.
That night, all three not only started for the Red Sox in an 11-5 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, but there was production from all three. Kalish, who has been playing on a regular basis for Boston since July 31, drilled an RBI double. Anderson, making his second Major League start, smashed his first two career hits, had his first RBI and crossed home for the first time. Reddick, who had been to Boston before for some abbreviated stints, came through with a career-high three hits.
"Yeah, man, it's a wild experience for all of us to play together," said Kalish. "We've been playing on and off together for the last four years, and it's nice having all of us around because we all know each other better than most because we've been around each other so much."
There were more heroics in the just-completed three-game sweep in Seattle, when the trio started together twice.
|"Yeah, man, it's a wild experience for all of us to play together."|
|-- Ryan Kalish|
The Red Sox have 16 games left in their season, and the kids are going to have a chance to play.
It is a different kind of September for the Red Sox, in part because the club has been decimated by injuries to star players, and also because the club is further back in the standings for the final playoff spot (six games) than has become commonplace in recent years.
The last time Boston was not in the heart of postseason contention at this time of year was 2006, and a kid named Dustin Pedroia got a chance to get his feet wet. Now, the Kalish-Anderson-Reddick trio are getting a shot.
"It's not necessarily something we anticipated at the beginning of the season," said Red Sox director of player development Mike Hazen. "It's a good opportunity for these guys -- that hopefully won't come around all that often -- for them to be able to come up and showcase their skills for the Major League staff, and obviously make a contribution to winning games on the field.
"On the whole, they've done a pretty good job of holding their own, and it's good to see them come out and compete against this caliber of competition. Like I said, this probably won't be all that common of an occurrence, we hope."
The Red Sox have built a recent tradition of 95-plus win seasons and postseason berths. Development on the Major League squad is usually limited to Spring Training.
Though Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Kevin Youkilis are all out for the season, the prospects are able to play in the same lineup as veterans like David Ortiz, Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. They get to observe the leadership of captain Jason Varitek. They can watch how Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz -- homegrown products themselves -- can dominate from the mound.
"Obviously we have a lot of really, really good payers that are hurt, and it's s shame, but it's a good learning experience for us because there are still a lot of really good players and you get to watch all of them," said Kalish.
"The main thing for them is winning. That's an important thing to learn, is how to win. You need to help a team if you want to stay in the big leagues. That's the way it is. I'm definitely watching all these guys because they're all winners. That's why they're here."
|"They worked hard. They responded to the things they're being taught, and they took it from there. They're all special in their own unique way."|
|-- Triple-A Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo|
"You know what, first of all, it was my honor this year to watch them grow and turn into the players they're becoming," Lovullo said. "They worked hard. They responded to the things they're being taught, and they took it from there. They're all special in their own unique way. They're all going to be really good big leaguers, and I get to watch that kind of translate right now first-hand, and I sit here very pridefully watching what they're doing."
It was Lovullo who ultimately got to hand all three of them their tickets to Boston. The most frenetic was the promotion of Kalish, just hours before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Red Sox had a 4 p.m. ET game that day, and they not only recalled Kalish, but put him in the starting lineup. Before the day was over, he was in the middle of a walk-off mob scene set off by a three-run double by Ortiz in the bottom of the ninth.
"It happened as quick as you could possibly imagine," said Lovullo. "We're getting off the bus coming from the airport, and within a 20-minute period we had to get him up to Boston for a day game. I didn't really have a chance to celebrate with him, but I got a chance to watch him play and perform, and he was ready for the challenge.
"Of the three, he was probably the most ready for me because of the things that he was doing on a consistent basis. I think when you're that young, if you start to show the consistency, you're going to show us that you're ready to go. He made the decision easy for us when it was time for him to get that call. It was a no brainer."
And since his arrival, Kalish has hit two grand slams, made a handful of sensational catches and proved that he can play center field -- as well as the corner spots -- at the Major League level. Of course, the development is still coming. The lefty -- who many in the Red Sox organization feel is a Trot Nixon clone -- is hitting .250 with four homers and 22 RBIs.
"He's got the nose for the ball," Francona said. "You look at his size and I don't know if he looks like a true center fielder. But he plays center field like a true center fielder, which will certainly add to his value."
Then there is Anderson, who was once known almost exclusively for his bat, but has recently shown tremendous strides as a defender at first base. He has already made a few lunging grabs since his arrival in Boston.
"Oh man, it's unbelievable how much better he's gotten," Francona said. "I know that [Minor League infield instructor] Gary DiSarcina and [Double-A manager] Arnie Beyler and Torey deserve a lot of credit. This guy deserves a ton of credit because he's obviously gotten so much better, even just since Spring Training. It's really exciting. It just looks like night and day. He was starting to make some strides this spring, but he really has done a good job this year. It's really exciting to see."
Lovullo still gets a kick out of the way Anderson reacted on Sept. 5, when he got the news about being Boston-bound.
|"It's been really exciting and overwhelming at the same time."|
|-- Lars Anderson|
"Lars, for me, grew up right before my eyes. He came in and struggled [after coming up] from Double-A. He was hitting in the .190s, he raised his average 65, 70 points to have a very respectable Triple-A season, which is unusual for a guy that age and the struggles that he had. He worked hard to pick himself up."
And during his crash course, Anderson is trying to soak things in as best he can.
"It's been really exciting and overwhelming at the same time. And everything I thought it would be like, and also, in a lot of ways, nothing I thought it would be like," Anderson said.
"It's really been quite an experience. I haven't really had the time to process it all, and I'm still trying to get my feet under me, but it's so enjoyable at the same time, so I'm really having a good time."
What has surprised him about life in the big leagues?
"Just things like traveling or where you stay at. The amount of resources that are available to you, video stuff, all the staff," said Anderson. "Hitting with white balls every day. Pleasures like that are really something. One ear flap [on the batting helmet] threw my equilibrium off a little."
For Reddick, there is something more natural about this trip to the "Show". The other times he was promoted, the Red Sox were in an injury crisis and needed some backup in short order. This time, Reddick, who had a red-hot second half, truly earned his promotion.
But he knows it's hardly fun and games.
"It feels like it's kind of a tryout, with where we are right now in the race," Reddick said. "We're always going to compete to try to get back into it, but I feel like I'm going to get a good amount of playing time no matter what, so it's almost like a tryout, and hopefully it will put me in a better position for next year if I succeed. I'm trying to be consistent with at-bats, and not just getting hits, but having good at-bats and swinging at good pitches."
And the other reason Reddick appears more at ease in this stint with Boston is that he has his good friends to share the experience with.
"I think it's a good feeling, coming in here [the other] night and what we all did, having RBIs," said Reddick.
"We're all trying to prove ourselves, and we feel like we all fit in pretty good here. And Kalish has been playing quite a bit since he's been up here, and he's been doing really well up here, and he seems to be fitting in with a lot of the guys up here. This is a great group of guys, a great group of veterans, and they've really welcomed us into the clubhouse really well."