Ramirez still hopes to contribute to Mariners

July 4th, 2018

SEATTLE -- For , it's been an odd and difficult season as he's dealt with injuries since nearly the start of Spring Training. But the 28-year-old right-hander is finally feeling healthy and will see what comes as he builds his arm back up and roots on a team that has excelled in his absence.

replaced Ramirez in the rotation at the start of May and has been so strong in that role that the Mariners gave him a contract extension through 2019 on Tuesday, so Ramirez appears to be a pitcher without a place at the moment.

But things can change quickly in the world of Major League Baseball, and Ramirez -- who was penciled in as Seattle's No. 4 starter last winter -- will get himself ready in the coming weeks and see what he can contribute in the season's final two months.

Ramirez missed all spring with a strained lat muscle, then made two ineffective starts in late-April road losses at Texas and Cleveland before being shut down with a strained teres major muscle in his right shoulder.

In hindsight, Ramirez says his arm just never was right in the early going, but the time off has allowed him to get back to full strength, and he said he can finally feel the life on his fastball again.

"It's crazy because I really want to be on the team and try to help and be healthy, that's the most important thing," he said. "Last time, I couldn't throw hard. I was working as hard as I can, but my strength wasn't there.

"Everything happens for a reason. After I went on the DL, they put LeBlanc in and he's been doing awesome. The team has been awesome. So right now I'm just focusing on working as hard as I can so when they activate me, I can help the team to continue its success."

Ramirez threw off the mound prior to Wednesday's game in his second bullpen session this week. Once he's ready, the Mariners will send him on a Minor League rehab stint. The question is how he might fit in once he's full go, since he's out of Minor League options and would have to remain on the 25-man roster or be put through waivers.

But Ramirez has thrown out of the bullpen as well as been a starter throughout his six-year MLB career and said he'll be happy to take on whatever role helps the Mariners. Ramirez is earning $4.2 million this year and is arbitration eligible for one more season before becoming a free agent in 2020. The club still values his versatility.

"He's come out of the 'pen in the past and did a nice job starting for us last year," manager Scott Servais said. "Who knows how the second half will play out? You need as many pieces as you can. The biggest thing is just getting him healthy and throwing well."

Tune-up time for Zunino

Catcher Mike Zunino had the day off Wednesday, but was out doing early work on his swing with Minor League field coordinator Mike Micucci, who played a big part in Zunino's swing makeover last year when he went down to Triple-A Tacoma for several weeks.

Zunino has 12 homers in 59 games, but is batting just .185.

"He's just trying to find his stroke," Servais said. "It's been a little bit of a roller coaster this year for Z and he's just trying to get some consistency. He has a long history with Mike and he does all our catching instruction through the year. He's been really important in Z reinventing himself with the adjustments he made last year. It's a group effort and hopefully it gets him on track."