You remember Ryan Kalish. You might not think of him regularly, but you remember him. He was once one of the best Red Sox prospects in the system, a high-upside ninth-round pick out of high school who was going to be a fixture in Boston's outfield for years to come.
Then came the injuries, and the surgeries to fix them. Neck surgery in 2011 following a summer of playing through the pain that resulted in Josh Reddick leapfrogging him on the depth chart. Another surgery literally months later to repair the labrum in his throwing shoulder. Two years later, surgery on the other shoulder to fix the other labrum, and later that same year, cervical fusion surgery on his neck. Kalish once considered retirement because of all of this, but refused to give up at such a young age.
That's not all of them: Peter Gammons has repeatedly tweeted out that Kalish has had nine operations in all. Despite all of this, Kalish is back in the majors: the Cubs called him up on Tuesday, and he even played, logging the first plate appearance in a big-league uniform since 2014 when he pinch-hit for Jake Arrieta.
While it was only 20 games, Kalish looked a lot like the player who was once a promising prospect while at Triple-A. For Iowa, he batted .368/.471/.509 with more walks than strikeouts, three steals in four attempts, and six extra-base hits including two triples. That combination of speed and power was evident just from looking at Kalish, who was always built for both to the point his ability to stick in center long-term was a question from the beginning. Injuries sapped his speed and explosiveness both on the basepaths and at the plate, though, and that once-promising prospect seemingly vanished.
Now 28, Kalish's career doesn't have to be over. If he's finally healthy -- and that if is, as Sox fans know, a huge one -- he could help the Cubs. They lost Kyle Schwarber for all of 2016, and while Kalish isn't about to replace him or anything like that, he once had the skills and potential to be a starting outfielder on a winning team. If he can recapture that, if he can stay on the field, then maybe it really is the Cubs' year. Kalish himself stuck around and powered through those retirements thoughts for this exact scenario:
There's guys who make a great career for themselves later than that, starting at 28, 30. For me to give up and not go ahead and keep going, I think it would be a mistake. Especially for myself in 10 years (to think), 'What could have happened if I got healthy?'"
28, huh? You mean the age Kalish is right now, when he's finally looking like there is hope for him once more? There is a whole lot of season left for both the Cubs and Kalish, of course. But hey, if we're seriously entertaining the idea that it's finally time for the North Side to thrive, then the thought of Kalish finally sticking in the majors doesn't seem silly at all.
The odds are stacked against him given his history, but I'll be pulling for him even though his Boston days are far behind him.