Minor League Profile: Elizardo Ramirez

With pitching being a strong point of the Phillies minor league system, it's easy to overlook a guy like Elizardo Ramirez. "Lizard" has been impressive since signing with the Phillies as a free agent a couple seasons ago. Actually, the Phillies aren't too upset that Ramirez hasn't attracted too much of the spotlight yet, since he likely needs a lot more seasoning, which is easier to accomplish without the spotlight's glare.

When the Phillies signed Elizardo Ramirez out of the Dominican Republic, they hoped that the 18 year old had not stopped growing or filling out. Luckily, Ramirez has filled out and has put on about 25 pounds since he first signed with the Phillies in 2001. Ramirez still will never be confused with Randy Johnson at just six-foot and 180 pounds, but he definitely needed the added size to help his durability.

In 2002, the Phillies sent Ramirez to the Gulf Coast League and he quickly dominated opposing hitters. In 73 innings, Ramirez whiffed 73 and amazingly, walked just two hitters. This season, Ramirez skipped over Lakewood and went right to Clearwater. While he hasn't been as dominating, he has certainly been powerful. Ramirez (7-5, 4.01) actually walked 17 hitters in his first 85 innings – still a good ratio – while striking out 54 hitters.

Ramirez can do the basics, with a fastball in the low 90s and the usual movement that scouts look for on the pitch. His bread and butter pitch is the curveball. Ramirez would make some major league hitters look very foolish with his curve and it's even getting better. While his curve ball has been getting better and better, many around the Phillies believe that he'll gain more velocity over time. The Phillies have also been working slowly on getting Ramirez to throw a change-up that they think he'll need to keep higher level hitters honest.

The Phillies are generally pretty cautious with young pitchers, so Ramirez will likely spend the rest of 2003 at Clearwater. Of course, they also like to get top pitchers at least a couple games worth of exposure at the next level late in the season, so fans in Reading could be seeing Ramirez before the end of the campaign.

As Ramirez battles his way through, there seems to be less concern about his durability. Many scouts who thought he might run into problems late in games or late in a season seem to have been wrong and are changing their tune.

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