Ramirez impresses Blue Jays in MLB debut

Right-hander throws 2 shutout innings against Orioles

Ramirez impresses Blue Jays in MLB debut

BALTIMORE -- Carlos Ramirez didn't waste any time earning a new group of fans inside the Blue Jays' clubhouse.

The wide-eyed rookie reliever made his Major League debut by tossing two scoreless innings during Toronto's 1-0 loss to the Orioles on Friday night at Camden Yards. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons typically likes to ease his youngsters into the big leagues, but he had no choice but to throw Ramirez into the fire.

Ramirez was brought into a scoreless game during the bottom of the 10th inning and retired all six batters he faced. His big league debut began with a strikeout of Tim Beckham and in the very next at-bat he struck out Manny Machado on seven pitches. It was about as impressive of a debut that a reliever can make, and the Blue Jays took notice.

"He did a great job," Steve Pearce said. "That was awesome, awesome to watch. He faced a good part of the lineup, too, and was able to get the job done. That's just great for the ballclub going forward."

Ramirez's strong debut comes on the heels of a borderline historic season in the Minor Leagues. The 26-year-old did not allow an earned run for either Double-A New Hampshire or Triple-A Buffalo. His only blemishes over 37 2/3 combined innings were an unearned run on April 18 and another unearned run on July 25.

Based on how Ramirez pitched Friday night, it was easy to see why he had so much success in the Minors. He topped out at 94 mph, but it was a devastating slider that stood out the most. The slider looks like a fastball on its way to the plate but has late break that causes the ball to swerve out of the zone and miss bats. Per Statcast™, Ramirez threw 16 of his 27 pitches for sliders and got three swinging strikes and four called strikes.

The Blue Jays intend on using the next month to see how Ramirez continues to respond in these high-leverage situations. He's a possible candidate for a setup role in 2018 alongside Ryan Tepera and Danny Barnes. This is what September is all about for non-contending teams, and it is already a dream come true for the converted position player who didn't start pitching until 2014.

"Oh man," Ramirez said as his eyes popped open when asked about what it was like walking into a big league park for the first time. "I still don't believe it. I still don't believe it."

Tepesch designated; Santos makes debut
Right-hander Nick Tepesch was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Saturday, and right-hander Luis Santos had his contract selected from Triple-A Buffalo. Tepesch made three starts for Toronto this season and allowed eight earned runs over 14 innings. Santos made 24 appearances for Buffalo and posted a 4.07 ERA over 108 1/3 innings.

Santos entered in the fifth inning of Saturday night's 7-2 victory and limited the Orioles to one run over 3 1/3 innings. He became the 60th player Toronto used this season, which is tied for the second most in Major League history. The Rangers used 64 players in 2014, while the 2016 and 2015 Braves each used 60.

Santos' first career strikeout

Smoak cleared for return
First baseman Justin Smoak was back in the starting lineup Saturday. Smoak was held out of the starting lineup for three consecutive games, but he did enter Friday night as a pinch-hitter. Smoak previously was dealing with a sore right calf muscle.

"We'll keep an eye on him, but he's doing pretty good," Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale said. "It's a little different in September. You have some options with an expanded roster, but we still want to put ourselves in a position to play this game and win."

Gibbons away from team
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was away from the team Saturday because of what the club described as "personal business." It was not immediately clear when he would rejoin the ballclub.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.