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Erasmo Ramirez’s winding baseball journey could land him in Detroit this summer

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Lakeland, Florida – He was only 20 years old and deployed to the United States for the first time, in all locations in Clinton, Iowa. Born in Nicaragua, he had played his first two professional seasons in the Venezuelan summer league and felt like a stranger in a foreign country.

He was alone. He neither spoke the language nor understood the food, much less the Iovan way of life. All he wanted to do was chase and pursue his dream of getting into the big leagues. Why did this writer from New York follow him to ask really bizarre questions?

“At the moment I thought he was crazy,” said Erasmo Ramirez, now 30 and approaching his 10th season in the big league. “I thought he was just kidding and following me everywhere and asking me. I went to my teammates, he’s crazy. I didn’t know what was going on. “

Back then, an aspiring writer named Lucas Mann was working on a book called “Class A: Baseball in the Midst of Everyday Life”.

Man more or less embedded himself in the Seattle Mariners’ 2010 Clinton LumberKings Low-A daughter – a team that stars was a bonus baby infielder named Nick Franklin and a calm, shy, slightly plump Nicaraguan right-handed man who does this these days tried Win a roster seat with the Tigers as a non-roster invitee.

“I kept replying what he kept asking,” Ramirez said with a shrug. “And then he came out with the book. It was pretty good too. “

A baseball trip

Ramirez’s journey since then could warrant a sequel. It matured into a power arm sinker balling starter mug that blossomed with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2015. Then he was sent to the bullpen almost by accident. He didn’t like it at first, but he thrived in the swing man role.

Then came a series of injuries, a trade back to Seattle, then a couple of DFAs. In no time the unique view was a journeyman who was ready to rent.

“Before I had my kids, I was a little kid who threw the ball well,” said Ramirez on Saturday morning. “Then all of a sudden I get the injuries and start not executing and I lose my mind about the strike zone and how to be unlucky.

“But after I have my little kids and my family, I start to think about how cool it can be to tell my kids, ‘Hey, I’ve tried and I’ve done it. And I never stopped. ‘”

He’s unlikely to get the Tigers out of spring training, but he’s made a strong impression, allowing only three hits and a run of seven strokes in 8.2 innings. He made a viable option for himself later this summer.

“He’s a valuable pitcher,” said manager AJ Hinch. “I don’t know who coined the term ‘accomplished veteran,’ but it kind of comes across. He is very trustworthy when you have the opportunity to suit him. I can definitely see him throw for us. “

After a misunderstood stop with the Red Sox organization in 2019 (getting up for a game), Ramirez spent most of last season with the Mets at their alternate location. He was called up in September and allowed only one run with nine strokes in 14.1 innings.

“It was my trust, my personal trust,” Ramirez said of what clicked for him. “I ran away from the contact a bit. I was scared of going on strikes, scared of going in. I’ve thought too much about pitch mix, and the more I think, the more time I’ll make a mistake. “

In the winter of 2019, he was working on manipulating his cutter to move horizontally in both directions. He mastered the ability to peel off both sides of the plate. By regaining his feel and confidence in his ability to toss all of his pitches for strikes in any number, he was able to get thugs to chase and get weak contact on pitches straight off the plate.

“As if you weren’t afraid to go 2-0,” he said. “I know that I can perform anytime, anywhere. If I show the batsman that I can work in the strike zone, they cannot lock me in. I had a pitching trainer tell me that you have to learn to throw balls. Since they are in the zone all the time, they start swinging early and you get that damage.

“Sometimes they don’t give you a chance to throw another pitch and hit the batsman. The more you work in the zone, the greater your chances of success. “

That contradicts the message that Hinch and pitching trainer Chris Fetter have been preaching all spring. They touted the advantage of leverage and got their way in the count. Strike One is your friend.

“But at the same time, they understand that you have to throw balls because rackets go crazy when they know you’re doing nothing but throwing hits first,” said Ramirez. “Don’t be afraid of the 1-0. This can be your best chance to get out. “

Hinch doesn’t believe in cookie cutters, so he won’t mess with what works for Ramirez.

“You can see why he appears in the big leagues every year,” said Hinch. “He had to reinvent himself from a young player, a starting pitcher, until now he’s been a swing guy who throws a lot of punches. He’s not a tall, physical type so he has to create angles. He has to throw.

“He’s a bit of a master at what he does best. This is a hit into the hit zone and causes the ball to move just enough from the barrel and move through different styles of hit. “

Just need one

Ramirez chose a freelance agency after being hired by the Mets. When he got out of the pandemic, he knew his chances would be close. But he only needed one.

“My only intention is to take the opportunity, whether it’s a big league deal or a minor league deal,” he said. “I told my agent that. I just need a name. Give me a team and I’ll work my bum off and do the best I can, show up in the best shape I can.

“It paid off.”

He knows the numbers speak against him when it comes to standing on opening day. He also knows that the season lasts six months.

“If I get the opportunity to start with the team I will of course be happy,” he said. “If I have to go back, go to the smaller leagues and go to the alternative side and keep working on my things, I have no problem with that either.

“I’ll just be ready for the call.”

That’s not the only call Ramirez is waiting for these days. He and his wife, who already have a 2 year old and a 4 year old, have a third child on the way.

“That is even more reason for me to keep on striking,” he said.

Twitter @ cmccosky

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Dusty Kennedy