Ramos Earning Keep In Rays’ Rotation
After moonlighting as a starter in Spring Training, Cesar Ramos‘ returned to his familiar role as he began the regular season as the long reliever in the Rays’ bullpen. Meanwhile, that assignment would be short-lived as injuries to Matt Moore and Alex Cobb opened not one but two slots in the rotation. Ramos and Erik Bedard, who also competed for Jeremy Hellickson‘s vacated spot in spring, were now Rays’ starters for the foreseeable future. Bedard has produced little as a fill-in, but Ramos appears to be slowly finding a groove at the back-end of the rotation.
Ramos’ first turn through the rotation left little to be desired. Facing the Reds in Cincinnati, he completed a smooth first inning before the wheels fell off for the left-hander in the second. His day ended after just two innings (47 pitches) allowing four runs on three hits and three walks.
The former Long Beach State Dirtbag is owner of four average pitches: a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s changeup, a slightly slower slider and loopy curveball that barely cracks 70-mph. He relied mostly on fastballs and sliders versus the Reds and pitched almost exclusively to his glove-side. Though he barely threw half of his pitches for strikes, he was not “wild” per say. The bulk of his pitches were concentrated in an area just beyond the strike zone.
A week later Ramos made his second start. This one came at home versus the Yankees and went much better. Ramos pitched five solid innings, surrendering just one run on four hits. He walked one and struck out three. His Easter Sunday ended after just 53 pitches (35 strikes) as he continues to build endurance as a starter. After working glove-side fastballs and sliders against the Reds, Ramos went fastball heavy (74 percent) and leaned more toward his arm-side.
Ramos’ third time through the rotation came last night on the road against the Chicago White Sox. Once again he was able to complete five innings (he worked one batter into the sixth) with favorable results. He kept the Southsiders off the board while scattering five hits and handing out two free passes. Ramos did not ring up a strike out, and has just four in 12 innings in the rotation. Instead, he has used the defense behind him while changing speeds and location as a means of generating outs. After choosing sides of the plate in his first two starts, Ramos incorporated both sides of the dish and threw more changeups and sliders in his third start.
Ramos used just 10 off-speed pitches in his first two turns, but threw 13 against the White Sox. The pitch did not generate a swing-and-miss but served a purposed, generating nearly two innings worth of outs. In a high-leverage situation, Ramos faced Jose Abreu with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning. On the third pitch of the plate appearance, he retired the slugger on an 85-mph changeup that was pounded in the ground to third base for a 6-3 putout.
With Erik Bedard struggling, and Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson at least a month away from returning, Ramos should be afforded the opportunity to further himself as a starting pitcher. Once the reinforcement arrives, he will likely return to the pen, but as this first month of the season has shown, you just never know.