Ramirez Shows Great Control For Rangers





ARLINGTON — The Rangers saw their minor league pitching depth take a hit last summer, when the eventual American League champs shipped away multiple young arms in roster-bolstering trades for the stretch drive.

Club officials still like the talent in the system but know that the two upper levels aren't as stocked as they could be. Enter pitchers like Neil Ramirez, who have a chance to jump a few levels this season as the Rangers continue their efforts to develop quality big league starting pitchers.

Ramirez was assigned to high Class A Myrtle Beach, accompanying the Rangers to South Carolina for an exhibition game in late March. He wasn't there long, though, before the Rangers pegged him for a start at Triple-A Round Rock after Eric Hurley was placed on the disabled list.

"I had a good spring, building on a good second half last year," said Ramirez, who was the 44th overall pick in the 2007 draft out of Kempsville, Va. "I'm getting comfortable with getting in a rotation and getting a routine down. Results-wise I'm looking at having a good year this year."

Ramirez, 21, allowed four hits in his first two 2011 starts, with one walk and 14 strikeouts. The quick start was an extension of his strong finish at low Class A Hickory last year, when he went 4-3, 3.74 in 14 games.

Control is one of the righthander's calling cards—he struck out 142 and walked 37 in 140 innings last year at Hickory—and one of the reasons the Rangers believe he can be a success in the big leagues.

"He showed us all last year," general manager Jon Daniels said. "We feel he really made a big step. He'll be challenged again this year. We're not going to knee-jerk beyond what we'd normally do, but there is opportunity created and it wouldn't surprise me to see someone move during the season."

RANGER ROUNDUP

• Hickory shortstop Jurickson Profar missed nine days on the disabled list after spraining his wrist on April 15. He returned to action April 25 and through his first nine games was hitting .188/.333/.469.  

• Myrtle Beach has a loaded pitching staff that includes, among others, righthanders Ramirez, Barret Loux and Joe Wieland, and lefthanders Robbie Erlin, Robbie Ross and Kasey Kiker. They were all selected in the fourth round of the draft or higher.