Neil Ramirez Got Stronger This Winter

SURPRISE, Ariz. — Texas hasn't experienced many summers like the one its residents and ballplayers suffered through in 2011, when temperatures crept above 100 degrees and stayed there for what felt like forever.

Neil Ramirez hadn't had a season like the one he had in 2011, when he debuted at high Class A Myrtle Beach and quickly turned a spot start at Triple-A Round Rock into a permanent assignment.

It was a breakthrough season for the 44th overall pick of the 2007 draft, but it wasn't without speed bumps. Ramirez's right shoulder wore down and the Rangers temporarily shut him down just after the halfway point. The sizzling Texas heat also whittled him down to 195 pounds by the end of the year.

The plan for the offseason was to get stronger and get heavier, and neither was especially easy. If anything, the weight room was less challenging than the weight gain, which required Ramirez to consume up to 6,500 calories a day.

That's not quite Michael Phelps territory, but the resulting 20 pounds of extra weight and the extra muscle in his legs and core have Ramirez feeling better than ever as he participates in big league spring training for the first time in his career.
"The shoulder's not giving me any trouble," Ramirez said. "That's a result of getting strong in the lower half and keeping that shoulder loose and stable."

Rest also helped after the Rangers sent him to the Arizona Fall League for extra work after he logged just 98 regular-season innings. But he didn't stay away from the Surprise Recreation Complex, reporting Feb. 1 and working six bullpen sessions before the Rangers held their first workout.

"I really focused on what I had to do to get ready for the season," said Ramirez, who is attempting to add a cut fastball to his repertoire of pitches. "It's all about staying healthy and going out there and showing that I can pitch every five days."

• Shortstop Jurickson Profar, the Rangers' top prospect, said that he is willing to switch positions to get to the major leagues.

• The Rangers signed first baseman Conor Jackson to a minor league deal. Jackson split time between Boston and Oakland last year, hitting .244/.310/.341 over 352 at-bats.