Ramirez almost ready

SURPRISE, AZ - Catcher Max Ramirez had his outstanding season slowed down by a hip flexor injury, which he suffered in his first at-bat with Triple-A Oklahoma. Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 23-year-old while he rehabbed at the Rangers' minor league complex.

Catcher Max Ramirez entered this season with a career high of 16 home runs, which he did last year in 391 at-bats.

In 244 at-bats with Double-A Frisco this season, Ramirez has belted 17 home runs while batting a robust .352. The breakout performance was enough to earn a call-up to the Major Leagues in mid-June.

Ramirez appeared in 13 games in just over one month with the Rangers, batting .233 with two home runs and nine RBI. He was obviously happy to get his first crack at the Majors.

"It is unbelievable," said Ramirez of the big league experience. "My family was watching me play on TV. [My first game] was in Washington. That's what I have been working for all my career in the minors – to play in the big leagues. When you get there, it's unbelievable really."

Even though the backstop was 2-for-4 with a home run off Houston's Roy Oswalt in just his second big league game, he promptly went 26 at-bats without an extra-base hit. But before being sent back down, Ramirez did show signs of improvement, as he went 5-for-14 with one double and one home run over his last four games. Ramirez believes he was able to settle in after a few weeks.

"When you're a rookie, sometimes you get nervous," explained Ramirez. "But when you start to play and play everyday, you feel more comfortable in the game. Good things happen when you feel like that."

After getting just one at-bat over a seven day span, Ramirez was optioned back to the minors. He spent a few days at Double-A Frisco before he was promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma.

But Ramirez wasn't in Oklahoma for long. Unfortunately, the short stay wasn't because he received another call-up.

"I hurt my hip flexor. It was my first game in Triple-A," said Ramirez, who suffered the injury during his first at-bat with the RedHawks. "I took a swing and hit a ground ball to third base. When I started running, I felt a pop in my right leg and they took me out of the game."

The 23-year-old has spent the last two weeks rehabbing at the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona. He appeared in a game for the AZL Rangers on Wednesday, going 2-for-2 with a double and a walk. Ramirez feels he is close to returning with either Double-A Frisco or Triple-A Oklahoma.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "I was hitting batting practice and I feel good. I think I'm going to come back pretty soon."

Ramirez isn't sure if the Rangers will call him up in September, but he hopes to get another opportunity this season.

"I don't know if they're going to call me up yet," Ramirez said. "I just know I'm going to come back to – maybe Double-A or Triple-A. I don't know yet. But I hope once we finish the season, they call me in September."

When the 2008 season does come to a close, Ramirez plans on playing winterball for La Guaira in his native Venezuela. Ramirez wants to use the experience as a springboard for next season.

"I just want to come back and play and finish the season in the big leagues in September this year," he said. "I'm going to play winterball in Venezuela and try to make adjustments and get better. Hopefully I wind up playing all year in the big leagues next year."

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