In just seven days back with the TimberRattlers, Nick Ramirez is making his presence known and showing that last year's numbers aren't the type of hitter he plans to be.
After going hitless in his debut, he's had at least one hit in each of the games since, including last night's walk-off single to win the game for the TimberRattlers in the 10th inning. The .250 batting average might not be impressive (and a small sample size), but seeing the ball so well when coming back from injury bodes well for the rest of his season.
Manager Matt Erickson says that Ramirez is benefiting from his stint with the TRats last season:
"He came last year as most green college kids come not knowing what truly to expect in the everyday grind of professional baseball, He was having tremendous success at short season, he came up here and he was humbled pretty good with the bat. I think he’s a beneficiary of being here last year. I think being here last year has helped him in his start here right now...He’ll be a fixture in the middle of our lineup if he stays healthy and hopefully we’ll get some more big at-bats like we did tonight."
Ramirez was drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 Amateur draft . He was the Big West Player of the Year for Cal-State Fullerton in 2011 - as first baseman and as their closer.
He signed quickly after the draft and headed to Helena, but hit so well there (.369 with 8 home run and an OPS of 1.072) that just 22 games later earned himself a promotion to Appleton. Unfortunately he couldn't keep up that torrid pace. He finished the season hitting .197 with three home runs and 23 RBI.
About two weeks before the end of Spring Training, he broke the hamate bone in his right hand, which required surgery. Just seven weeks later, he was in the starting lineup for the Rattlers.
It's been a bit of a whirlwind week for Ramirez, but he's saying all the right things about his approach at the plate.
What's it been like being back? It's only been a week, but you're hitting well.
Yeah, I mean, it's been nice to get off to a better start then last year when I was here, so it's just - this year I kind of have a better understanding of the league and a better understanding of my swing and so it's more of a thing of being a professional baseball player for more than - well I haven't even been in for a year - but just knowing my swing kind of a little bit better and just going out there and not trying to do too much this year and just trying to stay consistent and keep a smooth swing and I think that's helped so far with putting the ball in play and making better contact more frequently, so I'm just going to continue to try to do that.
Did the change in your swing come with offseason or Spring Training work?
Yeah, it kind of came in the off-season where I was hitting every day and then realizing that I don't need to try and swing hard or anything it's just that, I mean I'm big enough that I can just swing easy and the ball is still going to jump off my bat, so it's just at thing of really understanding my swing a little bit better because I don't have a metal bat in my hand anymore, now it's a wood bat so little things are different with that. And especially with pitch selection with a wood bat because now they're going to break, so I had to get used to that with the end of last year and also this offseason and Spring Training helped a little bit. Then I had a little setback with my hamate but then, once that happened it was just kind of - I went to thinking really more about my swing rather than - because I couldn't really do anything, so I would read on professional hitters on what they do and what their approach is, so I think when I got back that really helped a lot.
The hand is fine?
Your home run this week was rather impressive. Do you see yourself as a power hitter? Do you think maintaining that power will be an issue?
I don't think it's going to be an issue. I mean, first base, you have to be a power hitter so I think it's expected that those numbers are thrown up, but I mean that's also another thing that can get me into trouble to where I go up there and I want to hit home runs and then the swing starts getting long and loopy so I just have to tell myself to try an stay inside the ball and drive gap to gap and the backspin's going to take care of it.
When you were added to the roster you traveled all day but were still in the lineup that night. The TimberRattlers seem to be happy to have you here.
Yeah, it's nice to be able to know that you're going to fly in and have a whole day of traveling and still be able to make the lineup that same day. It's a lot better than still being in Arizona right now, rehabbing still. SO I'm just excited to have the season start.
Has anyone from the organization talked to you about what the plans are for you in the future?
I don't know, they haven't told me much but I'm just going to go out and do my best and perform every day.
On hitting a walk-off
That’s probably one of the best feelings in baseball, to tell you the truth. Nothing better than seeing your whole team run towards you.
On his approach to his at-bat in the tenth inning that delivered the walk-off single
I got the first two strikes and I stepped out, told myself "alright, we have first and second and the winning run is on second, so a strikeout would be better than a ground ball." So I tried to just – when I made contact tried to lift a little bit so I could stay out of the double play. I was still out in front a little bit, but kept my hands back and hit it over – hit it where they weren’t. I thought I had a chance of getting it over his head and I guess it went father than I thought it was going.
Manager Matt Erickson was pleased with Ramirez's game-winning at-bat:
"He’s a guy with some power, but he’s a guy that can hit. That was evident in that at-bat right there. You know, he might have got caught up in the situation last year and tried to go deep in that situation where we don’t necessarily need a home run – we need a guy with good power to be a good hitter in that situation and he got the two strikes, ball away from him. He stayed to the opposite field instead of pulling off and drove it just far enough to get it over the head of the left fielder."
Big thanks to Nick for taking the time to talk with me. I don' t think this will be last you're hearing from him. You can follow Nick on Twitter @n_ram3314