The Indians had two choices heading into this four-game series against the Royals: Keep Daniel Johnson on the roster and give him a few more opportunities, or replace Johnson with Harold Ramirez as the club’s extra outfielder. Cleveland chose the latter, and so far, it’s paid off.
After going 2-for-5 with a double in his Indians debut on Monday, Ramirez followed up with the go-ahead RBI double in the eighth on Tuesday night in the club’s 7-3 victory over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, giving Cleveland its seventh win in the last 10 games.
“I’m very thankful for this opportunity,” Ramirez said through team interpreter Agustin Rivero. “I’m very excited to be here. I’m very excited to be here and I’m ready and doing my best to show my best game to be able to stay with the team.”
Ramirez, a right-handed hitter, was called up due to the fact that the Royals were slated to start three lefties in the four-game set. He was a late addition to the 40-man roster during Spring Training, and he hit just .167 with a .389 OPS in 10 Cactus League games. But his energy, aggressiveness and versatility left a positive impression on the big league coaching staff.
When he officially joined the Major League team on Monday, manager Terry Francona said, “He’s an aggressive hitter, we know that. But he can get to a good fastball. I think he’s gonna help us.”
Francona was right.
In just two games, Ramirez has gone 4-for-9 with two doubles and two RBIs. His first RBI came in the sixth, when he drove in the tying run on a single to left. The 26-year-old has been thrown into the Indians’ ever-changing outfield mix -- Jordan Luplow starting in left on Tuesday gave the team its 10th different outfield combination in the first 28 games -- and his versatility has already allowed him to see time in both center and left.
Ramirez has only been with the club for two days, but his approach with two strikes -- like on his go-ahead double in the sixth -- has already caught Francona’s eye.
“Harold hitting the ball down the right-field line,” Francona said. “He had actually done that [Monday] with two strikes twice, and I told somebody, 'You know he didn't get a hit there, but that's going to help.' He doesn't just strike out. He shortens up and hits the ball the other way.”
“I mean, honestly, I really hate striking out,” Ramirez said. “So, when I’m two strikes, my approach gets to be really aggressive just to put the ball in play.”
His approach has been successful thus far, as he hasn’t struck out in his first nine plate appearances. And with Luplow (left groin discomfort) and Eddie Rosario (left knee pain) getting banged up over the previous two days, Ramirez’s strong first impression may help give the team some flexibility to give the injured duo some extra rest.
Ramirez demonstrated a lot of potential upside in his rookie season in 2019, hitting .276 with a .728 OPS, 11 homers and 50 RBIs in 119 games with the Marlins. But his 2020 season was taken from him after just two games due to a non-baseball medical issue followed by a season-ending left hamstring strain. Now, he’s just looking to get back to regular playing time.
Aside from Ramirez’s blunder in the third inning, having completely missed a fly ball that prompted much confusion on the field and allowed Andrew Benintendi to advance to third even though he had been tagged out in the process due to miscommunication from the umpiring crew, Ramirez has started to put together a convincing case to keep his bat in the lineup.
“There’s always another opportunity open for you,” Ramirez said, “and I just want to take the best advantage of it as possible.”