If you had Mariners righthander Juan Ramirez pegged for greater things, well, then you’re not alone. He fanned 113 Midwest League batters last season in 124 innings, all while showing markedly-improved command. And after two starts for high Class A High Desert this year, the 20-year old Nicaraguan was 2-0, 0.79.
While one might hesitate to call Ramirez’s start to the season dominating—mostly because he’s walked five and struck out just four through 11 1/3 innings—he clearly has been unhittable. And that’s true regardless of which definition one uses. The 6-foot-3, 175-pound Ramirez has limited California League batters to a .111 average (4-for-36), allowing just one home run, which he surrendered at Stater Bros. Stadium, his home turf in Adelanto, Calif.
One scout who saw Ramirez last season raved about the easy 92-94 mph velocity and plus life that the pitcher generates. And it’s that ability to keep the ball off the barrel of opposing batters—and to keep it on the ground—which has most benefited him in the hostile Cal League. Thus far, he’s recorded 21 groundouts and nine flyouts, good for a 2.33 ratio.
Mariners farm director Pedro Grifol has taken notice, saying that Ramirez has done a better job of pitching under control this season.
"He’s really pitching with confidence and focus," Grifol said. "Our guys have done a wonderful job with him. That includes our mental skills coaches, who have worked to help him control his emotions. We feel that will help him to repeat his delivery 80 to 90 times a game."
Such consistency would go a long way toward helping Ramirez refine his secondary offering: a promising hard slider that flirts with plus potential.
Elsewhere in Mariners land . . .
• Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Michael Saunders, 22, missed all of spring training and began the season on the Rainiers’ disabled list. He still is recovering from offseason surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder. The club wants him to be 100 percent healthy before taking the field. They expect him to get a significant number of repetitions this season, regardless of his start date, by either calling him up to Seattle (he needs to be added to the 40-man this winter) or sending him to the Arizona Fall League.
• Third baseman Jharmidy DeJesus, 19, is working out in extended spring training as he recovers from shoulder soreness. Because of the organization’s enviable depth at third base, Seattle didn’t necessarily have a natural place to assign the young Dominican, anyway. The Mariners feature prospects at the hot corner from Triple-A on down to low Class A—from Matt Tuiasosopo to Matt Mangini to Alex Liddi to Mario Martinez.
• Outfielder Dennis Raben, the club’s second-round pick last year, stayed behind in extended spring to continue rehabbing his right knee. The 21-year-old has been working hard daily and has seen some progress lately, but he’s not ready for full baseball activities. Raben had arthroscopic surgery on the knee recently, according to his blog, but doctors found more soft cartilage in a subsequent exam. He faces season-ending surgery if the condition does not improve.
• Hard-throwing 19-year-old righthander Maikel Cleto, acquired last offseason in the J.J. Putz deal, has been placed on the inactive list as he remains stranded in the Dominican Republic. He has not yet been granted a work visa to enter the U.S.
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