PEORIA, Ariz. -- Among the most intriguing young relievers in Mariners camp is hard-throwing right-hander Yohan Ramirez, the 24-year-old picked up from the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft in December.
With the normal asterisk attached to every pitcher who looks good early in Spring Training while throwing bullpen sessions before the games begin, Ramirez has opened the eyes of the Mariners’ brass with his initial impression.
“He’s certainly caught my attention and a lot of our pitching coaches’ attention,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “It is a special, special arm. The fastball is coming out really, really hot and the secondary pitches are real weapons. They are swing and miss type pitches. I’m very anxious to see him pitch in games.”
Ramirez was available from the Astros for a reason. He’s struggled with his command in four Minor League seasons, including last year when he walked 52 batters in 61 1/3 innings in his final stop at Double-A Corpus Christi.
But with a mid-90s fastball that has reached the 97-98 mph range along with a hard slider and changeup, Ramirez has intriguing weapons. His 13.4 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio was third among all Minor League pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched last year and he was fifth in opponent batting average at .169.
“Certainly he needs innings, he needs reps,” Servais said. “When you take a Rule 5 guy, it’s a little bit of a gamble. Typically it works best if it’s a bullpen guy, a utility infielder, something like that. It’s not a guy you put out there to play regularly every day. But when you have a young player that has that much talent, can we harness it?
“The one thing we have here is opportunity for young players. So he’s in the right camp for him. It’s been very impressive. Again, it’s just bullpens and we all know everybody looks great in the bullpen. But he has a special arm. His issue has been consistently throwing it over the plate. So once we get into the games, we’ll have a little better feel for what we’re looking at there. But I’m really excited about that one. It’s a tremendous talent and great fit for where we’re at.”
Haniger arrives at camp, new dad Gordon not far behind
Right fielder Mitch Haniger arrived at camp Wednesday after his surgery last week in California, but it’s not certain yet how long he’ll remain sidelined as he recovers from a microdiscectomy, which is a small repair of a vertebra in his lower back. Haniger is expected to meet with the media on Thursday to discuss his situation.
Second baseman Dee Gordon and his wife, Joalisya, welcomed their first child on Tuesday in Windermere, Fla. The Gordons had a baby girl named Demi, and Servais said he’ll likely report to camp later this week.
Still missing from camp due to visa issues are pitcher Manny Bañuelos and infielder Alen Hanson from the Dominican Republic.
The medical report
Right-hander Matt Magill, who finished last season as Seattle’s closer and is a leading candidate for that role again this year, is being held back after feeling some discomfort in his shoulder prior to camp. But Magill said the issue was minor and he threw a bullpen session without any issues on Tuesday.
“I feel great, just a little behind,” Magill said. “We’re a week and a half behind everybody else, but with the schedule me and [trainer Kyle Torgerson] worked out, everything seems to be right on schedule to hopefully make 6-7 outings this spring and be ready to go. Time is on my side. Relievers don’t have to build up, so that makes it a little easier.”
Erik Swanson, another returning right-handed reliever who is expected to play a role in this year’s bullpen as well, is also recovering well from a mid-back strain that cropped up in mid-January when he was working out back home in Fargo, N.D., after the birth of his son.
“I blame it on sleeping in the hospital bed for a couple nights,” Swanson said. “But the back feels great now.”
Swanson is a few days behind the rest of the pitchers, but also threw 25 pitches off the mound on Tuesday and said all went well. He’ll throw another bullpen, then a live batting practice and be ready for Cactus League action.