Ramirez continues to rack up wins from 'pen

'We're so fortunate to have him,' Cash says of Rays' reliever

Ramirez continues to rack up wins from 'pen

ANAHEIM -- Erasmo Ramirez went to Angel Stadium on Sunday tied for second in the Major Leagues in wins. And all but one of the wins has come while working out of the bullpen.

How the rest of the season plays out for Ramirez remains in question. Will he continue working out of the bullpen, or will he return to the starting rotation?

At the end of Spring Training, Rays manager Kevin Cash broke the news that the team would begin the season with a four-man rotation, with Ramirez in the bullpen.

Not only has Ramirez done well in his role, he's thrived. Cash has said many times that Ramirez has been the team's most valuable player thus far.

On Saturday night, Ramirez won again, pitching two scoreless innings in the Rays' 4-2 win over the Angels. Teammates have lovingly begun to razz Ramirez (6-1) for his uncanny knack of being able to swoop in and claim a decision.

"Well, most of the time, it's a tie game or we're losing by one," Ramirez said. "And I don't know, the team just starts hitting. And I say to them, it's not my fault. I just try to execute. I just laugh about it. I just want to continue to execute."

What the Rays have in Ramirez, along with their wealth of starting pitchers, is a luxury. Over the weekend, all they had to do was look into the Angels' dugout -- a team with suddenly depleted starting pitching -- or look in the rearview mirror to last season.

"You feel for [the Angels]," Cash said. "... We know what the injuries do, especially to your rotation. They've been hit with the bug pretty good so far. ... We talk about [having a guy like Ramirez] every day. We're so fortunate to have him and for him to be so versatile in that role. I don't know if we have another starter who is capable of doing something like that."

According to FanGraphs, Ramirez has pitched in the highest-leverage situations of any pitcher in the Major Leagues with at least 20 innings pitched. His leverage index, a measure of how "on the line" the game is at that particular moment, is 1.40 is followed by Seattle's Felix Hernandez (1.31) and Texas' Cole Hammels (1.25).

Cash smiled when asked if he thought Ramirez would have six wins by Mother's Day.

"Yes," he replied.

Worth noting

Brad Boxberger threw live batting practice on Friday in Port Charlotte and the plan is for the Rays closer to repeat that drill again on Monday. Cash said that Boxberger would likely pitch a game in extended spring training before beginning his rehab assignment, which will take place in Port Charlotte for the most part.

Cash joked about the prospect of his pitchers taking batting practice. "I don't know why [they're taking batting practice]," Cash said. "But whatever works. We traded [Nathan] Karns, the other guys can't hit."

Karns became the second Rays pitcher to hit a home run when he did so against the Phillies last season.

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for MLB.com since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.