Ramirez Won't Be First Option For Yankees





TAMPA—A lot of things would have to go wrong for Jose Ramirez to surface in the major leagues this season.

The 23-year-old from Yaguate, Dominican Republic—the same hometown of injured Yankees righthander Michael Pineda—has never pitched above high Class A Tampa. When spring training opened, the Yankees had six pitchers and five spots in the rotation, and Adam Warren and Brett Marshall each enter this season with more minor league experience than Ramirez.

Yet the big leagues should eventually be a destination for the slender righthander ticketed for Double-A Trenton this season.

"He has arm strength and commands the bottom of the strike zone pretty well, he has a good changeup and his slider is improving from what I understand," major league pitching coach Larry Rothschild said early in spring training.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Ramirez throws a 96 mph fastball that helped him fan 94 batters in 99 innings last year at Tampa, while going 7-6, 3.19 in 21 games. The performance was a marked improvement from the previous season, when he posted a 5-12, 5.66 record in 99 innings between low Class A Charleston and Tampa. It earned him a spot on the 40-man roster for the first time.

"He has a good pitcher's body if there is such a thing," Rothschild said. "He has got some height and not real tall. I don't care about body type, I care more about coordination. He is coordinated."

YANKEE DOODLES

• Melky Mesa has a chance to take advantage of Curtis Granderson's broken forearm. Barring a late-spring trade, the Yankees were likely to take righthanded hitters Matt Diaz or Juan Rivera to play left field. Mesa, 26, would then fill the role of defensive replacement.

• Included among the eight players reassigned to minor league camp in early March was catcher Gary Sanchez, who went 1-for-5 in three Grapefruit League games and is expected to open the season at Tampa.