The Virginia Beach native has been spectacular for the Cubs out of the bullpen the first two months of the season after being promoted from Iowa on April 24. He made his big league debut the next day in Milwaukee that included striking out Ryan Braun. In 17 games for the Cubs, Ramirez has cashed in on his only save opportunity and fanned 24 in 15 IP. He's allowed one run, a solo homer, and sports a ERA of 0.60, a BAA of .120 and a WHIP of 0.75.
Northsiders' Rob Willer was able to catch up with the Cubs' reliever and ask some questions. After the interview is recap of Ramirez's career before the 2014 season.
NorthSiders Report: Are you going to stay in the bullpen in the future or get a chance to start again ?
Neil Ramirez: Not sure where I will be in the future just trying to be as good as I can in the role I am in right now.
NorthSiders Report: Why have you been successful this season at the big league level?
Neil Ramirez: I've just been focused on making good pitches , being aggressive, and learning and getting better everyday. Keeping it simple and staying positive.
NorthSiders Report: Has it been easy to settle into Chicago and get into a routine since getting called up?
Neil Ramirez: Yea I didn't change anything with my routine when I got here and having great teammates that made me feel part of team right away and have given me great advice both about pitching and life.
NorthSiders Report: You had a bad outing in Iowa, were you surprised you got the call?
Neil Ramirez: I was a little surprised not because of having a bad outing but just didn't know there was a need for anyone to be called up.
NorthSiders Report: How's your arsenal of pitches? Has the cutter been scrapped or something you're still working on?
Neil Ramirez: I'm throwing fastball, slider, curve mostly. I've never thrown cutter. But I feel good with where pitches are at just working everyday to be consistent and make good pitches with all of them.
NorthSiders Report: What's your best advice to the young cubs prospects?
Neil Ramirez: My best advice would be to stay positive and just never get complacent. You can't ride the high and lows in this game. You have to stay even keel and have a plan to get better everyday.
NorthSiders Report: Who has been your biggest mentor at the big league club?
Neil Ramirez: All the guys in the bullpen have been mentors to me. We spend a lot of time down there together and they have taught me a lot about pitching and the mental side of the game. I think more than anything we talk about the mindset you have to have to be successful for a long time and that is all about being positive and confident.
NorthSiders Report: What was it like when you heard your name getting called in the MLB Draft?
Neil Ramirez: I was at school and got a call from my parents that I had been drafted and it was an awesome feeling. I can't explain the feeling of knowing that you are going to have the opportunity to chase your dream and do what you really love to do.
NorthSiders Report: What was your thought process when you got traded for Matt Garza along with Justin Grimm, Mike Olt and CJ Edwards?
Neil Ramirez: I was grateful for all the Rangers had done for me in my time with them and excited at the same time to have a fresh start in the Cubs organization. It was a good feeling to know that another team wanted you. The Cubs obviously have a great history and I was excited about the opportunity to give them my best everyday and help them win.
Here's more on the reliever's career before he was traded.
After a successful career at Kemspville High School in Virginia Beach, Ramirez was rated the 71st best draft prospect by Baseball America and was named 2007 Gatorade Virginia Baseball Player of the Year. Ramirez had a scholarship to Georgia Tech, but was selected in the supplemental first-round pick by the Rangers, # 44 overall. Ramirez waited until the deadline to sign and didn't make his pro debut until 2008 making 13 starts in the Northwest League (1-2, 2.66 ERA, 44 IP, 52 K). In 2009, he recovered from a broken hand and only pitched 66.1 innings, making 14 starts for Hickory in the South Atlantic League. Ramirez returned to Hickory in 2010 for another full season, this time working a career-high 140 innings in 28 games. He went 10-8 with a 4.43 ERA and fanned 142 (2nd in SAL) with only 37 walks.
After three years of A-ball, Ramirez made a big leap in 2011 going from High A Myrtle Beach to AAA Round Rock. After one game at Myrtle Beach, Ramirez was promoted to AA Frisco and was named the Rangers Pitcher of the Month after 34 K in 26 IP and a 1.38 ERA. He made six starts in the Texas League and was promoted to AAA. He made 18 starts in the PCL, logging 86 strikeouts in 74.1 innings with a 3.63 ERA. Ramirez returned to Round Rock for the start of 2012 but didn't get the same results. He had a 7.66 ERA in 15 starts and allowed at least one homer in his final 11 starts before being sent back to AA. He made 12 starts for Frisco, sandwiched between a trip to the DL for back problems, going 2-5 with a 4.20 ERA in 49.1 innings.
Ramirez got back in his groove to start 2013 as he was named a mid-season all-star and earned a Texas League Pitcher of the Week award. In July, Ramirez suffered a shoulder injury and only threw 11 innings between July 6 and Aug. 18. Before being traded to the Cubs, Ramirez made 21 starts going 9-3 with a 3.84 ERA recording 127 K in 103 innings. He appeared in one game after the trade was made official, tossing 4.2 shutout innings at Chattanooga on Aug. 29. He fanned five, walked two and allowed one hit for Tennessee. Ramirez earned his spot on the roster this spring as he allowed two hits in 7.2 shutout innings in the Cactus League. He fanned 11, didn't walk a batter, and had a WHIP of 0.27.
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