Nick Ramirez To The Mound Is A Sensible Switch

PHOENIX—Considering the dearth of lefthanded pitchers in the organization, the Brewers decided to make one from scratch.

When Nick Ramirez took a step back offensively last season as a first baseman at Double-A Biloxi, the Brewers suggested that he would have a better chance to advance as a pitcher. It wasn’t a crazy notion because Ramirez also served as the closer at Cal State Fullerton before Milwaukee made him a fourth-round pick in 2011.

“They mentioned it in July and I started throwing bullpens, getting back into it,” said Ramirez, 27. “When I first started, I looked like an infielder throwing off the mound. I hadn’t done it in five years.

“I wasn’t using my lower half. I wasn’t using my body. It was just a slow progression to get back in shape and let my arm bounce back and all that stuff.”

With some help from Biloxi pitching coach Chris Hook, Ramirez started to look like a pitcher again. After the season, he went to instructional league and pitched in game situations. He returned home to prepare for being a two-way player, something the Brewers haven’t had since the days of Brooks Kieschnick in 2003 and 2004.

The early results were encouraging. Ramirez faced three hitters in an exhibition game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and struck out all three. Next time out against the Rangers, he whiffed two of three hitters.

“Somehow, my pitches got better with the five-year hiatus,” Ramirez said. “I don’t know how that happened, but I’m happy with how it’s going. I feel good out there. I just want to go out and compete. It’s a wonderful opportunity and I’m trying to make the most of it.”

The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Ramirez doesn’t have an overpowering fastball at 90-91 mph, but he has an effective changeup, a pitch he managed to keep the feel for despite being off the mound for so long.

“That’s always been my go-to pitch,” he said. “Luckily, the feel never left.”


Lefthander Nathan Kirby, who had Tommy John surgery late in 2015 and missed all of last season, returned to the mound against the LG Twins of the Korean major league in an early spring exhibition.

Catcher Jacob Nottingham had an upper biceps issue in big league camp and was sent to minor league camp.

— Tom Haudricourt covers the Brewers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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