The writing is on the wall for Cesar Ramos–pending something drastic, he is running out of time as a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. It is no coincidence that Alex Cobb is making his rehab start on the same day as Ramos’ outing, and he is set to return to the rotation in five days. When he does, Ramos will return to his old stomping grounds in the bullpen. Just because he will be a reliever again, though, does not mean that Ramos will be even close to the pitcher that he was before.
Cesar Ramos still has plenty of incentive to pitch well tonight. Of course, he wants to pitch well and help his team win. In addition, Cobb’s rehab outing may not go perfectly, and Ramos wants to make it clear that if there is even the slightest question about Cobb, he should make another start. There is another factor, though, that is the most interesting of them all: Ramos wants to return to the bullpen with momentum. Even within this starting stint, we have already seen Ramos make one spectacular relief appearance. On May 4th, Ramos was set for his throw day in the bullpen when the Rays needed him. Jake Odorizzi had to come out with runners on second and third with two outs in a 3-3 game in the fifth inning, and Ramos was the pitcher that Joe Maddon decided to bring in. Sure enough, Ramos struck out Brett Gardner, and, after intentionally walking Mark Teixeira, he struck out Brian McCann and forced Alfonso Soriano to ground out to escape the jam. That game was just a taste of how valuable Cesar Ramos could be in relief.
The facts are clear: Ramos has the ability to be a bullpen weapon for the Rays. He is a pitcher who can succeed in both critical spots middle in games and when the Rays need length after an early departure from their starter. He has shown as a starting pitcher that he can retire both lefty and righty batters, and getting hitters out will certainly be easier when he does not have to see them multiple times in a game. Add in that Ramos’ arsenal was play up in shorter stints, and the Rays have all the ingredients for a key piece of their relief corps. We said the same exact thing after Ramos made a bid for the Rays’ fifth starter spot in spring training, but now he has gone out and given the Rays several strong outings. His confidence is at an all-time high after this starting stint, and Ramos can take that right into his bullpen work.
It would be nice if Cesar Ramos could pitch an excellent game tonight for the Rays. How often do we hear about a red-hot starter moving to the bullpen? No matter what happens, though, Ramos will head to the bullpen with a great feeling about his pitching and more trust from Joe Maddon than ever before. That may not be as exciting as starting every fifth day, but what a luxury it is for the Rays to have a pitcher like Ramos heading back to relief.