Practice Game 3, M’s at Dodgers
Erasmo Ramirez vs. David Huff, 12:05pm, 710am radio
Erasmo Ramirez enters camp at 24, with 35 big league starts under his belt and a very uncertain future. Bob Dutton’s piece details it well - his struggles over the past two years resulting in minor league stints that burned his options and leave him entering the 2015 without a lot of hope for a roster spot in Seattle. Ramirez isn’t pitching to make the team, but he’s pitching to make A team. As a long-time Ramirez fan, this is disappointing, but it’s hard to argue the M’s have misused the Nicaraguan. Instead, he’s been undone by the failure of his breaking balls to develop (curve and slider), nagging injuries that probably torpedoed his 2013, and mental lapses that he’s perfectly willing to cop to in that interview with Dutton. He’s 24, has a plus change-up, sneaky-good velocity, and declining results. With the M’s rotation and bullpen all but set, it seems inevitable that someone will land a cheap, young starter this spring. If they can iron a few things out, they’re going to get some value out of him. The M’s are simply at a point on the win curve where they can’t be sentimental, and they can’t think about “value” in the abstract. If Elias and/or Walker give them more chances to win games in 2015, then Erasmo will move on.
David Huff has bounced around to several teams recently after coming up in that interesting mid-2000s glut of Indians starters who had low K-rates and tried to manage contact – while Minnesota was obsessed with this profile, Cleveland dabbled before moving on to Salazar/Kluber/Carrasco-style nuclear-grade stuff. Huff had some surface similarity to Erasmo, at least early on. Huff’s a lefty, but moved quickly through the ranks thanks to a good change-up and low walk rates. Like Erasmo, the super-low walk rates didn’t follow him to the majors, and a new problem emerged: home runs. Unlike Ramirez, though, Huff’s biggest challenge was that his primary weapon – a change thrown around 81-83 – wasn’t good enough to dominate MLB hitters. In his career, batters have hit .300 with a .500 SLG% off of Huff’s change. They hit his fastball too; if they can identify a change-up on its way, then they were clearly capable of recognizing a non-change. While he’d have some success now and again out of the bullpen, that says a lot more about Huff’s role than it does about Huff.
Last year, though, he made a pretty big adjustment. He’ll still throw the cambio, but it’s in a supporting role now, thrown to RHBs only. Instead, he developed a cutter and throws that 30% of the time, about the same as he used to throw the change. He’d been using a few more cutters early on in a disastrous two-month stint with the Giants, but changed his approach markedly after the Yankees picked him up on waivers in mid June. From then on, he was excellent, albeit in a tiny, tiny sample. In every previous year, he’d shown reverse platoon splits, but last year, he was actually effective against lefties. He’s signed a MiLB deal with the Dodgers, and given his success with the Yanks, he may be looking for a bullpen job, but he’ll get the start today to see if the cutter can help him manage his long-standing problems with homers, and if he can maintain his improvement against LHBs without letting righties force him into the ever-crowded pool of potential LOOGYs.
1: Ruggiano, CF
2: Weeks, LF
3: Gutierrez, DH
4: Montero, 1B
5: Peterson, 3B
6: Romero, RF
7: Bloomquist, 2B
8: Taylor, SS
9: Sucre, C
SP: Erasmo Ramirez
LHP Edgar Olmos is back in camp today, after MLB voided the Rangers’ waiver claim on him. He’s the reliever the M’s got from the Marlins, then lost to Texas on waivers. When he showed up at Rangers’ camp, they detected a problem in his shoulder – an impingement of some sort. So, they complained to MLB, and MLB agreed that the M’s had sold on defective goods, so un-did the waiver claim, returning Olmos to the M’s 40-man roster. Because life, and baseball, can often be impossibly cruel, the M’s responded by DFA’ing 1B Ji-Man Choi, fresh off of his surgery to repair his femur. The Rangers eventually FOUND a left-handed reliever who isn’t damaged (yet) when they signed Joe Beimel to a one-year deal. This has been a depressing update.