Ramirez wants to use legs

Pitcher Neil Ramirez recently made his professional debut at Fall Instructional League after signing with the Rangers just before the August 15 deadline. Lone Star Dugout spoke with the 18-year-old about his focus during both instructs and his offseason.

First-round pick Neil Ramirez entered Fall Instructional League with no professional experience. After signing with the Rangers just before the August 15 deadline, the pitcher reported to Surprise, Ariz., where he began to work out and throw bullpen sessions. Despite having minimal exposure to pro ball, Ramirez felt he performed well at instructs.

"I thought it went really well," said Ramirez. "It was good to get out there and start getting into competition as far as all that goes. The coaches saw some stuff they wanted me to work on, so I felt like I learned a whole lot from them. Just being around all that competition, I think I did pretty good."

Ramirez says he wasn't too surprised by the level of competition because he had been hanging around the complex since signing with the club.

"I had been out there for two weeks before and I had gotten to meet some of the guys at instructs," he said. "I knew it was going to be real competitive when I got out there. It wasn't too much of a surprise, but it was also good to get out there with all that competition. It kind of helps you play a little bit better."

The Virginia Beach native estimates he appeared in four or five games during the month-long league, but he started making adjustments early on.

"My second time I pitched, I was kind of up in the zone a lot," explained Ramirez. "Rick Adair, the main pitching coordinator for the minor leagues, he saw me and said he wanted to get my legs more involved. He called it being more athletic with my legs.

"That was one of the things I had heard about before – that I was using too much arm. He got me doing some stuff just a little bit different with my mechanics so I can use my legs a little bit more when I'm pitching."

With a low-to-mid-90s fastball, strong curveball, and changeup, Ramirez could become one of the top prospects in the Rangers organization in a hurry. The 18-year-old says the adjustments helped to improve his breaking ball.

"I was getting good spin on [my breaking ball] and it was working well for me," he said. "Getting my legs more involved has also gotten my breaking ball a little bit sharper break. I was able to throw it more for strikes when I was out there."

In addition to developing on the field, Ramirez also feels he improved due to the work done indoors.

"Every morning we would have a pre-workout meeting," said Ramirez. "We would go in there and talk about stuff like signs and pickoffs. Towards the end we had some guys give presentations about former Rangers pitchers. We were in there talking and stuff like that. That also helped give more of a team atmosphere."

The team atmosphere was something that caught Ramirez's eye during his month at instructs.

"We were out there not just to work on stuff, but also to win as a team and get more comfortable with each other," said Ramirez. "We did that through going to the bowling tournament and doing some stuff in the clubhouse. We were just getting to know each other better and making it kind of like a mini-season for us."

Still yet to appear in his first regular season professional game, Ramirez is looking forward to learning where he will begin his 2008 campaign.

"We had our individual meetings when I was there," he said. "They told me they hadn't really seen me too much, so they didn't really know what to expect for next year. I guess I'm going to have to see how it goes when I go out to spring training."

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