At the end of May, righthanders A.J. Cole (Athletics) and Neil Ramirez (Rangers) had two of the worst ERAs in the minors at 7.16 and 7.57, respectively. Their organizations since decided each needed to go down a level, and so far, both pitchers have responded the right way.
Cole was one of the centerpieces of the return the A’s got for sending Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals over the winter, but the 20-year-old had a miserable time in the high Class A California League. Cole made eight starts for Stockton in the Cal League and lost seven of them, going 0-7, 7.82 before being sent to low Class A Burlington in late May. At the time of his demotion, Cole’s ERA was the worst among qualifiying Cal League pitchers, and he’d allowed the most hits (60 in 38 innings) and the highest opponents’ average (.364).
Cole fared little better in his first start for Burlington, allowing eight runs (five earned) in five innings on May 24, but he’s gotten going in the right direction since. Excluding a rain-shortened start on June 3, Cole has completed five innings in all six of his other Midwest League outings, something he only did three times in the Cal League, and he hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any start since his rough May 24 outing. He was solid again Monday, limiting Cedar Rapids to one run on four hits over five innings, striking out three without a walk. He picked up the win to improve to 3-0, 3.06 as a Bee.
While Cole was going through his struggles in high Class A, Ramirez wasn’t doing much better with Triple-A Round Rock. A fly ball pitcher who struggled to keep it in the yard in the Pacific Coast League (12 homers allowed in 15 starts), Ramirez’s ERA peaked at 8.02 after his June 14 start, at which point he had the third-worst ERA in the entire minors among qualified pitchers.
The Rangers dropped Ramirez down to Double-A Frisco after one more start, and the 23-year-old pitched well in his first outing in the Texas League on Monday. Ramirez held Corpus Christi to two hits over six innings, allowing only one run along with fanning six and walking three.