PHOENIX — Yohan Ramirez lives the mantra: “No bad days.”
With an electric smile, ebullient personality and endless energy, he’s often referred to as “the happiest guy in baseball” by Mariners manager Scott Servais.
But that happy guy can also play a little, and he’s shown it in the past few weeks of the season.
Ramirez pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th, navigating his way around a runner at third with one out by striking out pinch-hitter Christian Walker and getting the dangerous Josh Rojas to pop out weakly.
When the Mariners exploded for seven runs in the 11th for an eventual 10-4 win, it meant that Ramirez picked up his first major-league win. He was given the game ball, which is going to his family.
He also received the Mariners’ traditional postgame “beer” shower for an MLB first, being doused with not just beer but any other liquid or substance within reach in the clubhouse. He also might keep a souvenir from that.
“That was very special for me because I got some Tabasco sauce in my ears,” a smiling Ramirez said through third-base coach Manny Acta. “They poured everything on me. I’m going to keep some of that Tabasco sauce in my ears.”
Ramirez has allowed just one earned run in his past seven outings, striking out 10 batters and walking two in 7 1/3 innings pitched.
A Rule 5 draft pick before the 2020 season, he made 16 appearances in the shortened season, posting a 2.61 earned-run average with 26 strikeouts and 20 walks in 20 2/3 innings pitched. He had MLB stuff — a high-90s fastball and a wipeout slider. He also had little idea where it was going once it left his hand.
This season, he’s bounced back and forth between Class AAA Tacoma and the Mariners, spending time on the taxi squad. But in that constant shuttling and throwing bullpen after bullpen to stay ready, he found something — a slightly lower arm angle that’s produced more strikes.
“We saw a difference in him about halfway through the season,” manager Scott Servais said. “He was on the train, up and down from Tacoma and the last guy in your bullpen. But then you started to see the consistency of him throwing strikes with his fastball. We’re not trying for him to hit the strategic locations in the strike zone. We’re just trying to get him to throw it in the box. I don’t know if it was just consciously or unconsciously, but he got his arm slot a little bit lower and it was allowing him to get the ball in the strike zone more consistently.”
Ramirez believes it was a product of continuous work and preparation to pitch.
“I was just trying to find the best spot for me, working with the pitching coaches in Triple-A and up here,” he said. “I just kept going through my routine, trying to find the better spot for me and I kind of found it.”
And the happiness in life? Well, he’s always had that.
“Yo is great,” Servais said. “He’s the same all the time. I don’t really think he gets caught up and how big the moment is. He’s super energetic, upbeat. He’s the biggest cheerleader I’ve ever seen. When he’s in our dugout, you know he is in our dugout, it really changes it. He’s a kid in a candy store. He just loves to get in the game and compete. He’s got pretty good stuff, and he’s learned how to throw some strikes with it. And he’s been a really big piece for us here recently.”
- Jake Fraley (right-shoulder inflammation) has made some progress in his recovery after a collision with the wall while trying to make a catch. He is now hitting in the cages, which is an important step forward.
“From what I understand, he was able to get some swings in, swinging the bat yesterday and hitting off Ichiro, which is a challenge,” Servais said. “Ichiro has as good a stuff as anybody you’re ever going to see in a batting cage. I’m not joking. I’m serious with that. But he (Fraley) still feels a little discomfort on certain pitches, but he is swinging the bat so that’s a good sign. Hopefully, we’ll get him back here sooner rather than later.”