xml:space="preserve">

Pitching in the big leagues, there’s little margin for error. And even though Orioles rookie right-hander Yefry Ramírez is just 11 appearances into his major league career, he’s already faced enough lineups enough to learn that the hard way.

Less than three weeks after being inserted into the Orioles’ starting rotation for good, the 24-year-old Ramírez went through a five-start stretch in which he posted a 12.27 ERA and was jettisoned to the bullpen.

Advertisement

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that in Triple-A, you can still get some outs even though your mechanics might not be in sync, even though you might not be as consistent with your delivery, even though you might be throwing some mistakes,” Ramírez said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “Over here, there’s no chance. Mistakes are going to be punished, they’re going to make adjustments and you have to prepare for that and adjust as well.”

It’s unclear where his future lies, whether it’s as a starting pitcher or as a multiple-inning reliever. The final five weeks of the season will serve as an audition for next season.

The Orioles announced a pair of international signings in Moises Ramirez and Carlos del Rosario.

“It’s definitely very important,” Ramírez said. “This is the time of the season where I can demonstrate to them what I can do and I’m going to take that into consideration. So right now, my main goal is to continue to work on my mechanics, be more consistent with it, help my team and hopefully have better results. Whether it’s coming out of the bullpen or coming out of the rotation, I just want to help the team and do a good job.”

He has promise as a reliever. In his previous outing, he recorded three scoreless innings against the New York Yankees in Sunday’s 5-3 loss at Camden Yards. He allowed just one hit and walked two, settling the game after the Orioles fell behind 5-0.

Ramírez hasn’t allowed a run in two relief outings — he pitched five scoreless outings in long relief in his second big league appearance June 28 against Seattle — and opponents are batting just .160 against him in those two relief outings, which is 113 points lower than his average in nine starts. His ERA as a starter is 7.34.

Despite that inconsistency, it’s clear the Orioles are intrigued by Ramírez’s promise. The Orioles are his third organization — he was acquired from the Yankees last year for international bonus slot money — and he is a former infielder who transitioned to pitching after his first professional season in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization at the age of 17.

He’s put up strong numbers at every level in the minors. But the 6.07 ERA he has after his most recent start would be enough for a demotion to the minors. Other starters who have struggled have found their way back to Triple-A Norfolk, but the club seems determined to find a role for him.

“I’d never close [the door on being a starter],” manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re always looking for the starting part of it. And I like his makeup. He’s a pretty athletic guy. He hasn’t been pitching that much. He’s 23-24 years old. He’s got the stuff and the mentality to pitch in either role. … But you kind of look at the presentation as a reliever compared to a starter, because there’s a real need in our game today for guys who can do what he’s done out of the bullpen.”

Showalter said Ramírez’s potential to be a starter depends on his ability to master his slider and his changeup, the latter especially to left-handed hitters. He’s recorded high swinging strike rates with both pitches — 40.3 percent on his changeup and 32.2 percent on the slider. Opponents are batting just .130 against the slider, but .275 against the changeup.

“To me, it’s a lot how the slider continues to grow and how he can get the feel for that changeup every time out. It’s a big pitch for him,” Showalter said. “He had it the other day. That’s how he can pitch real well against left-handers.”

Ramírez said he had success Sunday because he finally worked through a flaw in his mechanics that’s bothered him for a while. When Ramírez lands, he does so toward the first-base side, almost spinning off the mound. But after his previous start — an ugly three-inning, seven-run performance in Cleveland on Aug. 19 — he went to the bullpen and worked with pitching coach Roger McDowell and special pitching instructor Ramón Martínez to iron out his mechanics.

“I have a history of landing towards the first-base side, so I’ve been working on trying to land more on the middle side and be consistent on that,” said Ramírez, who now throws closer to the third-base side of the rubber. “I’ve been working on my pitching mechanics lately and I think that’s the difference, that I made some adjustments and I think that’s why I’ve been able to do a better job in my last outing.

“So I always knew I had that, that I could improve that and when I was able to improve it, I would feel a real difference. The thing is that I never really knew actually how to do it, how to make the adjustment, so I was working on that until I was finally able to do it.”

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement