Might he have been tipping his pitches?
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 12, 2015
— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) May 12, 2015
Rays manger Kevin Cash turned to Erasmo Ramirez for the eighth and ninth innings. After throwing a clean eighth frame, Ramirez hit Alex Rodriguez with an errant change-up, then allowed a two-run homer to Mark Texiera. In all fairness, Ramirez threw a good thigh-high pitch on the outside corner of the plate. Credit Texiera for being able to put a good swing on the pitch.Speaking of Ramirez, what follows is a piece I wrote for another site. I updated the numbers since the righty hurled a pair of innings on Monday.
After a long clip of relatively smooth, injury free sailing, the Tampa Bay Rays have finally caught up with the rest of the league. Currently six pitchers have either gone under the knife, or are expected to. And while Matt Moore and Jake McGee are expected to return soon (relatively speaking, that is) the other four — Jeff Beliveau, Burch Smith, and most recently Alex Cobb and Drew Smyly — are expected to miss a significant amount of time.
Subtract the re-injured Smyly’s three starts (where he struck out 21 in three games), and Tampa Bay still ranks in the top 10 in strikeouts. The team has done a remarkably good job in the absence of their two best-projected starters (Cobb and Smyly).
Where will the team go from here?
In an ideal world, no one else would get injured and the pitchers would continue their consistent ways, but losing the dynamic duo calls for a response. It is the opinion of Marc Topkin that RHP Erasmo Ramirez is the likely in-house replacement for Smyly, conceding that Enny Romero and Everett Teaford could also fit the bill.
We can all agree that Erasmo’s first two appearances ranked toward the bottom of the confidence-meter. Since converting back to relief, however, he has been much better over his last 12-innings of work.
It goes without saying Ramirez is the type of pitcher who needs to work ahead of batters in order to be successful — and successful he was not during his first two appearances (5-1/3 total innings) against Miami and Toronto. The righty faced 37 batters and quickly fell behind 24 of them.
Ramirez threw first pitch strikes only 35% of the time (13-for-37). Opposing batters also tagged him for five first pitch hits over that span, three of which resulted in runs and put runners into scoring position. The gaudy results spoke for themselves, Ramirez allowed 16 total runs — 15 earned.
However, he improved his attack and command from the ‘pen, and pitched well because of it. In the subsequent 14 innings of work, Ramirez threw first pitch strikes 55% of the time (27-for-49) and allowed three earned runs on eight hits and a walk.
The progression of his wOBA and OBP speak to the fact that he is a much better pitcher when he works ahead and attacks the zone with quality strikes:
It begs the question, has Ramirez improved because of his recent use out of the bullpen? While it’s hard to infer what his mindset might be, I have my doubts. After all, one of his more dreadful outings came in relief, yet he put together a pretty good one run, a four-hit start against the Blue Jays on April 25th.
One thing is certain, in the words of Joe Strummer, the future is unwritten. Could Ramirez continue his streak of solid pitching over the next month or so, while we await the highly anticipated return of Matt Moore? Sure, why not. Might he regress and be replaced by the likes of Enny Romero? That’s a possibility as well. Could the Rays just keep Matt Andriese and Andrew Bellatti in a tandem until Moore is ready? Sure, but Ramirez only uses one roster spot.
To be clear, while I’m not sold on Ramirez, I remain cautiously optimistic — something that isn’t easy for a baseball grump like myself. Now, no whammies.
The New What Next
Chris Archer looks to bounce back after a pair of less than savory outings when he toes the rubber against Nathan Eovaldi and the New York Yankees on Tuesday. The 25 year-old righty has a high octane fastball, a slider with a good amount of depth and run that generates a lot of whiffs, and a splitter that’s been used as a change-up. You can read more about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 5/12/15 Starting Lineup
— Cash and the Rays haven’t made a decision “quite yet,” on who will start for the Rays in the series finale on Thursday:
We have to get through today, see kind of where we’re at.
The loss of LHP Drew Smyly has left the fifth spot in the rotation perpetually dangling.
Ramirez might be out of the running for a start Thursday after throwing 21 pitches Monday night. Then again, he might be available for a long relief type of appearance.
The combination of Andriese, Bellatti and Erasmo — all of those just kind of see what their usage is the next couple of days, Cash told Bill Chastain (MLB.com).
The possibility also exists that the Rays could make a roster move before Thursday’s game.
— According to Matt Stein (Sports Talk Florida), the impending return of Nick Franklin is nigh. The activation of Franklin will assuredly create a tough roster decision moving forward. It would seem that either Logan Forsythe or Tim Beckham could be effected by the decision, although the team could option a reliever and work with a deeper four-man bench.
It’s not going to be an easy decision. Despite being in the throes of a 2-29 skid, Beckham, who is out of options, is tied for the team lead with 12 runs batted in. He has also been productive off the bench, slashing .438 BA/.471 OBP/1.125 OPS with three home runs. Forsythe has been one of the most productive hitters in the lineup all season, and he’s been extremely hot as of late, hitting .323 BA/.364 OBP/.419 SLG over an eight game span.
Stein also contends that since Beckham could be the odd man out, Franklin could also just remain with Durham until there is an obvious need for his bat.
If what manager Kevin Cash said is indicative of anything, Franklin could be activated as soon as the coming road trip:
We’ll definitely have some decisions to make on the roster in the upcoming week.
— Entering play, Asdrubal Cabrera has accrued 999 career hits. His next hit would make him the 10th active switch-hitter to get to 1,000. Moreover, Chris Archer takes the mound tonight with a 5-0 record and a 1.93 ERA in six starts against the Yankees.