Giants keep Ramirez in bullpen over lefty Okert

Giants keep Ramirez in bullpen over lefty Okert

OAKLAND - Veteran right-handed reliever Neil Ramirez secured the final spot in the Giants bullpen for Opening Day, beating out southpaw Steven Okert, who will be optioned to Triple-A Sacramento. Giants manager Bruce Bochy announced the moves following Saturday's 6-3 exhibition win in Oakland, but there are still more 40-man roster moves to be finalized before Sunday's regular-season opener at Arizona.

Ramirez, 27, was out of options and pitched his way onto the roster this spring after racking up 19 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings and posting a 3.18 ERA. The 25-year-old Okert only gave up one earned run in his 10 2/3 innings this spring, but Bochy said the organization wants the lefty to get more consistent work in Sacramento.

"Okert had a very nice spring. He gave up one run," Bochy said. "But this is where we're at right now, how we wanted to start it. We didn't want to lose Ramirez, he had a good spring, too. We're set. We're set to go in the bullpen."

According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, Ramirez had asked to opt out of his contract if he didn't break camp with the big league club. But he's back in the Majors after spending the final 2 1/2 months of 2016 at the Triple-A level. Ramirez posted a 6.00 ERA in 24 innings last year with the Cubs, Brewers and Twins. Back in 2014, he was lights-out for the Cubs bullpen, recording a 1.44 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 50 appearances.

"I work really hard," Ramirez said. "Especially after the year I had last year, getting sent down to Triple-A like that, it was kind of one of those moments with myself, like, 'This is not where I belong and I don't want to be here anymore.' Took a long, hard look in the mirror and got back to work.

"I started throwing a lot earlier this offseason, had a lot more time on the mound before I got to Spring Training because I knew I had to be ready to go and compete from Day 1."

Ramirez is one of six right-handers in Bochy's bullpen to begin the season. Joining him are closer Mark Melancon, primary setup man Derek Law and situational righties George Kontos, Hunter Strickland and Cory Gearrin. As it stands now, Ty Blach is the lone lefty in the bullpen, but Bochy said Blach will be used in a variety of roles and could even make the occasional spot start.

Blach sits down Owings

After having the services of reliable southpaws Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt the past few years, Bochy said he's not nervous with just one lefty option late in games. In fact, he recalled the 1996 San Diego Padres team he led to the National League West title despite having no southpaw relievers.

"It's the old adage -- you go with your best pitchers," Bochy said. "If they're right-handed, they're right-handed. Sometimes you can overdo the matchup, trust me."

Bochy said the coaching staff plans to have a meeting with the bullpen before Sunday's opener to give the pitchers a clearer idea about the group's dynamic.

"I think we have the kind of guys that we can kind of mix it up a little bit," Bochy said. "But at the same time, just want to give them an idea of what we're looking at, so they're a bit more defined going into Opening Day."

Alex Espinoza is a contributor to and covered the Giants on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.