Former first round pick Neil Ramirez made his official debut with the Spokane Indians in 2008, and he posted phenomenal numbers to go with power stuff. The right-hander surrendered just 25 hits in 44 innings [with 52 strikeouts], leading to a 2.66 ERA.
Ramirez relied on his low-to-mid-90s fastball and hard, big-breaking curveball to dominant the generally older competition. Later in the season, he began mixing in a developing changeup.
On Wednesday afternoon, Lone Star Dugout caught up with the 19-year-old, who is temporarily sidelined with an ankle injury.
Jason Cole: I've seen you walking around the complex in street clothes the past couple of days. Are you hurt right now?
Neil Ramirez: Yeah, I had a little mild ankle sprain the other day. We were doing some conditioning and I was over on the conditioning field. It slipped and I rolled over it a little bit, so I'm just getting that healed up. Once that gets healed up, I'll be back out there throwing. Nothing serious.
Cole: How long are you expecting to be out?
Ramirez: Probably two or three days at the most, counting today. Hopefully tomorrow I can keep throwing again. I'll probably just do some light running tomorrow – nothing real heavy. Then, these next couple of days, I'll start getting after it like I was.
Cole: How much were you throwing before that injury?
Ramirez: I've been throwing quite a bit. I've been out here since January just working out and stuff like that. I've been throwing since then – throwing bullpens and that kind of stuff.
Cole: Going back to your year with Spokane last summer, obviously your numbers were really good. How did you feel you pitched?
Ramirez: I felt alright. It wasn't as many innings as I would've liked to get, but I felt like it was a fun season. We were winning and that kind of stuff. My arm kind of broke down there a little bit at the end. That's why I got out here early – I was making sure my arm was nice and healthy. Hopefully I can get into a full season and put up those numbers again. I'd like to keep the walks down a little bit, though.
Cole: What was your injury in Spokane again? Was it some shoulder tightness?
Ramirez: Yeah, it was just some shoulder, rotator cuff issue a little bit. It was just weak. It was my first full season. I hadn't thrown that much. And it's not really just pitching off the mound, it's everyday throwing. You have to get used to it and I think it'll be better this year.
Cole: A lot of players experience a big fluctuation in velocity during their first full season. Did you have any of that?
Ramirez: Yeah, I would have those days where some days it wouldn't be in the mid-90s, but some days it would be. I was kind of in that mid-to-upper 80s range consistent some days, then some days I would be low-90s to mid-90s. But I wasn't as worried about the velocity as much as getting the ball over the plate and throwing strikes. I knew the velocity would come in the end.
Cole: A lot has been written about your power curveball. How did it come along last year?
Ramirez: I think my curveball came along a lot. The curveball, I was able to consistently throw it for strikes more often than I had in high school. That was a big thing for me last year.
Cole: How about your changeup?
Ramirez: My changeup was big. I think I've developed a pretty good pitch. It'll be a good third pitch for me. I started throwing it in some fastball counts and got some guys to roll over some stuff. It's not an out pitch yet, but hopefully in the future it will be. It's definitely something that will get guys in fastball counts.
Cole: How often were you using it in starts last year?
Ramirez: At first, not as much. I would probably say maybe five or six times a game. But towards the end of the season, I would sometimes be throwing my changeup more than my curveball in some cases. That was big for me because I had been a fastball-curveball guy through extended and instructs. I was just throwing off the curveball, but I started throwing the changeup a lot more at the end of the season.
Cole: How difficult is it to force yourself to use the changeup in counts when you would normally rely on your more developed, more reliable pitches?
Ramirez: It was a difficult concept at first. It really started with getting confidence in the pitch. Once I started getting confidence and started throwing it for strikes, I got confidence in myself that I could throw a changeup instead of throwing a curveball. That's when it started coming around for me.
Cole: What have you been focusing on out here in Surprise thus far?
Ramirez: Just working on consistency with my mechanics – repeating the same mechanics every time like getting consistent arm slot. Basically it's just consistency in repeating the same delivery every time.
Ramirez nursing ankle injury
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