You can still make Anthony Ranaudo grimace. Just walk up and say:

Two-thousand and twelve.

Ouch. Not a lot of pleasant memories from 2012.

“Definitely a year to forget,” Ranaudo said. “I just have to put 2012 behind me.”

So many times Ranaudo has said those words, in interview after interview. The former No. 1 pitching prospect of the Boston Red Sox is letting everyone know, he’s done with what happened last year.

“Put it in the rearview mirror and move onto 2013,” he said.

Get the point.

Fortunately for Ranaudo, 23, the only grimacing he does is when he recalls last year. He doesn’t physically feel a thing, unlike last year when Ranaudo winced a lot from the pain. Strained groin muscle, brief back spasms, re-injured the groin muscle, sore shoulder, tired arm …

Ranaudo came to spring training camp last year, hyped as being a year or so from breaking into the majors. But he rarely got onto the mound for the Portland Sea Dogs. When he did, it was not impressive (1-3, 6.69).

The hype about Ranaudo eventually subsided. The pitcher who was drafted out of Louisiana State University and accepted a $2.5-million signing bonus, struggled mightily.

“It was a tough year to evaluate,” Sea Dogs pitching coach Bob Kipper said. “The question is how healthy was Anthony Ranaudo last year?”

Apparently, not too healthy.

This year?

“He looks great,” Kipper said. “”Here in spring training, he’s pitched very aggressively and confidently. He has prepared himself physically, fundamentally and mentally to go out to have a big year. I think Anthony Ranaudo is a guy on a mission.”

Kipper’s words came last week, well before Ranaudo pitched Thursday in an exhibition game against the Minnesota Twins’ Double-A team. According to Sea Dogs radio broadcaster Mike Antonellis, who is in Fort Myers, Ranaudo retired all 13 batters he faced. He struck out seven — striking out the side in the first and third innings — and allowed one ball out of the infield.

“He had outstanding command of his fastball,” Antonellis said by email. “He kept almost every pitch (fastball, curve and change-up) knee high.”

Ranaudo’s fastball reached 98 mph and his curve was sharp. All good signs for the 6-foot-7 right-hander.

“The ball is coming out well. I’ve been pitching well,” Ranaudo said last week. “Just got to keep that going. I’m healthy. No lingering issues.”

Ranaudo hopes to avoid injuries this year with a healthier routine, including hip exercises and stretches. He has bounced back before.

Ranaudo entered his junior year at LSU as the top college pitching prospect in the nation, but a forearm strain limited him to 52 innings (and a 7.32 ERA). Because of that, Ranaudo fell in the draft and Boston was able to get him with the 39th overall pick.

Ranaudo proved his recovery by dominating in the Cape Cod League that summer and the Red Sox signed him.

“I’ve been injured a few times in my career,” Ranaudo said. “I keep learning from them. If I can just keep that routine going and stay healthy, I think everything will take care of itself.”

We will see next week with Ranaudo and the rest of the Sea Dogs arrived in Portland. There may be doubts about Ranaudo. Maybe because he seemed like a sure thing last year, and he got hurt.

Is he damaged goods?

“A lot of people seem to label me as that,” Ranaudo said with a shrug. “That’s alright. People can label me whatever they want. “I know I just have to go out and prove to everybody who I am, just let my actions speak for everything.”

Kevin Thomas — 791-6411

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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