If that were the end of the story, it wouldn't mean all that
much. Anyone, after all, can have a good day. But that
victory on April 13 led to another Triple-A start, during
which Ramirez picked up another victory by giving up just
one unearned run over five innings, allowing two hits and
three walks while striking out nine. In three total starts
for the year -- including his first outing back in the
Carolina League -- Ramirez has yet to give up an earned run
in 15 2/3 combined innings. He's allowed just six hits for a
.115 batting average against.
"We may be a little aggressive with him at Triple-A, but we
were in a bind last week and needed a starter there, and
because of his work ethic, he had earned a shot," Rangers
farm director Scott Servais said. "He has taken the
opportunity and run with it. He will stay in Triple-A for
the time being."
What makes this recent turn of events even more improbable
is that Ramirez had kind of fallen off the prospect map for
a while. He was part of a big high-school pitching haul
drafted by the Rangers back in 2007. First-rounders Blake
Beavan and Michael Main have since been traded, leaving
Ramirez, the sandwich pick taken No. 44 overall, to carry
the banner of that class.
An elbow issue allowed him to throw just 66 1/3 innings in
what was supposed to be his taste of full-season ball in
2009. He walked 41 in that span and the Rangers sent him
back to the Class A South Atlantic League in 2010. There, Ramirez had a healthy season in which he
struck out 142 in 140 1/3 innings, greatly improving his control (37 walks).
He created some buzz this spring, lighting up the radar gun
in big league camp, touching the upper 90s with his
fastball. He's added some strength to his 6-foot-3 frame,
leading to added velocity that he can maintain. His two
secondary offerings have come a long way, a big reason why
he's been able to go from somewhat forgotten to the top of
the system in a relatively short time.
"It's a tremendous story!" Servais exclaimed. "He's the only
pitcher I've ever seen that has been able to change his arm
action. Our pitching coaches in the Minor Leagues have done
a great job with him and to Neil's credit, he has developed
an understanding of his delivery and he can now make proper
adjustments himself. He's a good athlete who has come up
with a Roy Halladay-type of workout routine."
"I didn't try to think about the arm too much," Ramirez
said. "I cleaned up my delivery, as far as direction to the
plate. I'm still working on it. I had a real long arm action
in the back and it created some timing issues. Sometimes
when I try to get too much, I do it in the back instead of
trying to get out front. It's definitely something I'll
always have to hammer in my head to the point where I can do
it every single time."
Routine and consistency seem to be the key words. It wasn't
until the 2010 season that Ramirez could find any sense of
it, with the injury-shortened 2009 campaign not allowing
him to settle in and get a true feel of what it was like to
be in a full-season rotation. Once he got into that rhythm,
he began to understand how his preparation in between starts
was the key for him to have success beyond one outing and be
able to perform well each time out.
"I was able to get acclimated to the every-five-days thing,"
Ramirez said. "I really learned to push my body to be ready
for that fifth day. It gave me that confidence that I'd done
everything I could to be ready for that start. Then, I could
just go out there, have fun and go after guys. That and
keeping an even keel, not get too high or too low.
"It's definitely good to see some results as far as getting
out there and getting guys out. You're a competitor your
whole life and you go out and get smacked around. You have
to trust in the process, and I did that. The work and
everything I'm doing off the field will come through in the
For now, it's given him the chance to show what he can do in
the Pacific Coast League, the Minors' top level. Ramirez has
no idea how long this will last and he's trying hard to not
concern himself with such matters. The way he sees it, he'll
take the ball every fifth day, regardless of the uniform
he's wearing, and let the proverbial chips fall where they
"I try not to think about it too much. All that stuff will
take care of itself in the long run," Ramirez said. "I try
to be competitive and, hopefully, if I can do that every
time I do that and have some results, maybe I can stay.
"But whatever they feel is good for my development, I'm fine
with. I think coming up here and seeing what it's like at a
higher level, it's helped my confidence a lot. These guys
are a lot more patient here, so you have to make pitches and
get ahead. It's the same game as it is everywhere. If you
can get ahead of guys and make your pitches, you're going to