Like we mentioned in the game thread blog, this was a tough outing for Erasmo Ramirez, but he managed to pull through it with only two runs of damage allowed in what became a 5-2 win for the Mariners over the Colorado Rockies. That will earn him some bonus points from his team, though his struggles versus left-handed hitters were certainly in evidence.
Kendrys Morales hit his third homer this spring and his first one from the right side today, while Mike Jacobs also went deep for the victors.
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But the big story was Ramirez and his quest to make the rotation. Despite the fact he hadn’t allowed an earned run until today, his job is anything but locked up and there are some factors at-play that may make this competition for the rotation even tighter the next week.
After the game, Mariners manager Eric Wedge admitted there are “a couple” of contractual issues that will require the team to make a call on some of their starting pitchers well before camp ends. I’ve heard that Jon Garland has an out-clause in his contract that will force the team to decide on his status by next week. Garland seemed to suggest yesterday that there are other teams out there that would take a look at him if he doesn’t stick with the Mariners and it makes sense to have a clause tht would free him up from Seattle with at least a week to go before spring training ends. Teams don’t like to acquire new players the last 24 or 48 hours before the season opens because their rosters will usually be set.
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Wedge wouldn’t get into any specific player names when I asked him whether any contractual considerations would force the team to make some earlier calls.
“There are a couple,” he said. “Not that I’m going to specifiy on, but there are a couple that will come up before spring training ends, yes.”
So, there you go.
If Garland makes the team — and you can’t base too much off what happened last night versus The Netherlands, unless is starts happening again and again — then Ramirez would be competing with Blake Beavan, Brandon Maurer and Jeremy Bonderman for the remaining spot. Again, Ramirez helped his cause by battling tough at times today, though by his own admission he threw too many meatballs to lefties and was fortunate not to get hurt more than he was.
“I tried to go in and the ball just didn’t go,” Ramirez said. “My slider stayed right in the middle. So, when they hit it to the gap I was lucky they didn’t just pop it over the fence. Because those pitches were right in the middle. I was like ‘OK, come on guy.’ ”
Not to belabor the point on this too much, but Ramirez gave up five really hard-hit doubles today and four of them were by guys batting left-handed. Ramirez has improved over where he was a year ago largely because he throws inside and isn’t just putting the ball over the plate for strikes like he used to. His ability to get hitters out consistently depends on the inside stuff, so, like Garland’s inability to make in-game adjustments last night, Ramirez’s struggles versus lefties today was a setback.
The only difference is, he was able to mitigate the damage, through a combination of luck and better pitching.
“I practice that in the bullpen,” he said. “I practice executing even when I’m tired. I don’t just cut down. I always work in the bullpen. I go ‘OK, let’s do a right-handed hitter, a left-handed hitter.’ Sometimes, once or twice I’ll miss a spot and…that can be like a double or a homer. So, I start over.”
He’ll force himself to do a round of pitches where he isn’t relying merely on fastballs. He works at using all four pitches so that hitters don’t hone in on one thing and turn a one-hit inning into a three-or-four-hit rally.
“You can’t go out there saying ‘OK, today I’m going to show everybody I can throw five or six scoreless innings’,” he said. “You’ve just got to go inning by inning.”
Ramirez admitted he was throwing too hard and trying to put guys away with a little too much heat today after jumping ahead in the count. He forced himself to settle down and stay within himself on his pitches so that he could execute and have the ball do what he needed it to.
“I tried to come back and be myself and not do more than I can,” he said. “I just have to execute pitches. I don’t know why I waited until I gave up the doubles, but I did execute pitches.”
In other words, the day could have gone a lot worse for him. But he salvaged something from it.
I asked Ramirez whether this rotation competition is maybe causing him to press a bit more than he normally would.
“Sometimes yeah,” he said. “Because you’re trying to look better than the other ones and show ‘OK, I’m ready, I’ve worked a lot, I want the job.’ But you have to be sure to do it the right way and not just rush and try to show that you’re somebody you aren’t.”
Ramirez said there will always be competition at any professional level and he wants to be kept on his toes so that he doesn’t give higher-ups the impression he thinks he’s already made the team.
“I’m working hard so I can make their decision a little tough,” he said. “Because we’ve got a lot of talent in the minors. We’ve got young guys throwing 98 mph easy. So, I have to be sure to do my work and wait until they make their decision. I don’t want to go into a game showing the manager and the staff that I don’t want to fight, or that I think I already have a spot.”
Wedge said he felt Ramirez got better as the day wore on.
“He was a little bit up a bit early,” Wedge said. “They got to him a little bit, but other than that, that’s something you always like to see in particular with your starting pitchers. His stuff continued to get better. He was more consistently down. He was using all of his pitches later in the ballgame. And was obviously very efficient. He made a few mistakes, but he righted them.”
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