By Jose M. Romero / @RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
Erasmo Ramirez was 21 years old when he made the Seattle Mariners’ 2012 opening day roster.
He was 22 in May and pitching for the Mariners’ AAA minor-league team, the Tacoma Rainiers.
But the Mariners couldn’t leave the talented right-hander from Nicaragua down on the farm club for too long. He has too much promise, and on June 13, Ramirez was brought back up to take struggling starter Blake Beavan’s place in the rotation.
Since then, Ramirez has learned firsthand how difficult it can be as a starter in the majors, especially when you don’t get much run support.
Ramirez, solid out of the bullpen in his first big-league stint earlier this year, was roughed up in his first two starts since his return. The third one, however, was as good as any pitcher can offer. Eight innings, three hits, one run allowed, 10 strikeouts – and a 1-0 loss Monday to the Oakland A’s.
“I was really glad,” he said in Spanish, of making it to the majors at a young age, “because it has been a dream of mine since before I signed. To be up here at 21, now 22 years old… I just have to keep working and keep everything in the strike zone.”
Ramirez achieved the dream, now he understands the importance of staying in the bigs.
“Now comes the best,” he said. “In spring training, all the batters, it was about timing and working on mechanics, they were weaker and there wasn’t as much focus. Now we’re up here, and everyone has worked on their skills so they’re more prepared. So I have to be more prepared too, and ready to make adjustments to different hitters.”
Ramirez has learned to come in with an idea on how to pitch to each hitter and take each start individually. He’s starting to figure out hitters’ tendencies.
He’s also found that pitchers don’t always have their best stuff working on any given day. In a recent game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, Ramirez was roughed up for four earned runs on seven hits in four innings.
The Mariners went on to win the game 12-9, but the Diamondbacks hit a lot of balls hard in the dry, climate-controlled air of Chase Field off Ramirez, who gets the benefit of a pitcher’s park in Safeco Field in Seattle.
“It helps the hitters (in Arizona), but if you start to think about that, you lose focus,” he said. “The idea is to go the mound, throw strikes, keep the ball down. When you make mistakes, the hitters take advantage of you.”
Ramirez was a little nervous when he first came up. He’s not the most imposing figure on the mound at 5-foot-10, and he has seen bigger and better players compared to the minors. But through his development, he’s learned that keeping his defense behind him involved and giving them a chance to makes plays is important, and the more he takes from each game and the faster he learns, the easier it gets.
“He needs to understand what he needs to be successful up here,” said Mariners manager Eric Wedge, who added that the coaching staff has worked with Ramirez after both of his first two starts after expressing dissatisfaction at what they saw.
“You get an idea what kind of pitcher you are and what your strengths are,” he said.
Ramirez is also the 12th Nicaraguan ever to make it to the majors. Most have been pitchers, and two are Ramirez’s favorites. One is the legendary hurler nicknamed “El Presidente,” Dennis Martinez, who was a four-time All-Star, threw a perfect game and won a World Series with Baltimore. The other is still in baseball, veteran pitcher Vicente Padilla of the Boston Red Sox.
He’s even a fan of non-Nicaraguan pitchers.
“For me it’s (Josh) Beckett,” Ramirez said, somewhat sheepishly, of the Red Sox star. “He is so relaxed, and then he just dominates later in games. That’s what I try to be, but I have to work at it.”